Muturi rules out changes to Bill, says law followed

By Anthony Mwangi
Wednesday, May 5th, 2021
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. Photo/PD/File
In summary

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi yesterday ruled out any amendments to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill, saying such move would negate the popular will of the people.

While delivering a ruling on the constitutionality of the Bill, he said alterations to the text of such a bill may only be allowed to correct errors of form or typographical errors before submission for assent.

“It is my considered finding that the BBI Bill is properly before Parliament. Further, it is my considered view that, in the reading of the Constitution, no State organ or person to whom power is delegated by the people, can stand in the way of the exercise of the sovereign power of the People of Kenya to chart the course of their future in any manner they deem fit within the provisions of the Constitution,” he decreed.

He also dismissed assertions by some members, who had questioned whether the Bill is a popular initiative under Article 257 of the Constitution; and whether the procedure outlined under Article 257 was followed by the County Assemblies and the correct threshold met before the introduction of the Bill in Parliament.

No restriction

In his 40 page ruling, Muturi told members that the document currently before the House is a Bill to amend the Constitution by popular initiative as envisaged by Article 257 of the Constitution.

“Any registered voter is at liberty to sign and support a popular initiative in terms of Article 257(1) of the Constitution.

The Constitution does not place any restriction with regard to the age, gender, tribe, profession or status of a promoter of such a Bill,” ruled the Speaker.

 Further, Muturi observed, the procedure prescribed under Article 257 of the Constitution was followed with regard to the origination and processing of the BBI Bill.

According to Muturi, the certificates submitted by the County Assemblies in their returns to the two Speakers of Parliament were conclusive evidence of the propriety of the procedures undertaken with regard to the Bill prior to its introduction in Parliament.

“The errors highlighted in the bills, currently before the two Houses, are not a nature that affects the substance of the bill. The errors may be corrected by the Speaker before submission of the Bill for assent,”  the Speaker ruled.

On the question on whether the bill upsets the basic structure of the Constitution and whether it contains “unconstitutional” constitutional amendments, Muturi dismissed all issues raised by MPs terming them premature.

 He also ruled out suggestions that the Bill could be amended on the value and intentions of public participation conducted by the Joint Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.

“The value of the exercise is to apprise the members and assist them to make informed decisions during the consideration of this Bill at Second Reading, Committee of the Whole House and the Third Reading,” Muturi informed the members.

The Speaker also said he was satisfied that adequate public participation has been undertaken as the Bill by its nature being a popular initiative and the involvement of the people by the joint committee, an environment and opportunity was given to the public to have their say on the matter.

On the effect of pending court cases on the consideration of the BBI Bill, Muturi said currently there is no court order directed at Parliament with regard to the said Bill.

Muturi ruled that a minimum of 176 members will be required to vote in the second and third reading. 

“The Bill shall undergo Second Reading, Committee of the Whole House and Third Reading.

The voting threshold applicable to the Second and Third Reading shall be a minimum of 176 Members, being a majority of all Members of the House, to pass,” Muturi decreed.

MPs Aden Duale (Garissa Township), David Ochieng (Ugenya) and Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu) had sought the Speaker’s intervention on the constitutionality of the Bill on the value of public participation.

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