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November 22, 2018

Instant traffic fines are legal, court decides

Judge John Mativo of the highcourt gives a ruling at Milimani court on October 11,2017.PHOTO/COLLINS KWEYU
Judge John Mativo of the highcourt gives a ruling at Milimani court on October 11,2017.PHOTO/COLLINS KWEYU

Motorists will continue to pay instant fines for minor traffic offences after a case challenging its legality was dismissed.

High Court judge John Mativo on Monday declined to scrap the minor offences traffic rules, which require instant fining by police for those who plead guilty, saying it is a convenient way of dealing with offenders as it saves time.

“Why would a person desiring to plead guilty be compelled to attend court only to plead guilty. Besides, if well managed and payment of fines is automated, the instant fines can eliminate graft and hence serve a legitimate purpose,” Mativo said.

The judge noted that the rules were subjected to public scrutiny, public participation and do not contravene the Constitution.

The case was filed by the Kenya National Union of Cooperative staff, challenging the constitutionality of instant fines. They came into effect in 2016 to deal with minor offences as a convenient manner. However, they have raised issues of access to justice, equity and natural justice.

Two years ago Kenya National Union of Cooperative staff challenged the rules and sought an order to quash them on the grounds that they are unconstitutional and contrary to public policy. They argued that imposing instant fines denies alleged offenders the benefit of court trial, and restrict access to court.

The state was also accused of violating the Constitution by developing a law that usurps the function of the Judiciary and purporting to replace a court process. The rules in question, court was told, mandates a traffic officer to arrest, charge, prosecute, try, sentence and collect fines from alleged offenders, in essence locking an alleged offender into paying a fine without being given the right to presumption of innocence pending trial. But the state said the rules do not replace a court of law or take away the right to be presumed innocent, or right to legal representation.

Read: Motorists association backs law on instant fines for traffic offences

The rules were put in place following calls from members of public to curb the challenge of uncertainty and inconsistency as to the applicable fines for various offences. A task force was consequently formed to come up with minor offences and corresponding penalties. The rules were presented before Parliament for scrutiny and subjected to public participation before enactment. Justice Mativo agreed with state that public participation was done, saying there was no denial of meetings to discuss the rules.

“A close analysis of the material presented before me leads me to the irresistible conclusion that the first respondent (CS Transport)

conducted a reasonable process of public participation,” Mativo said.

The judge further noted that the complainant did not show whether the instant fines imposed are unreasonable and unjustifiable in “an open democratic society based on human dignity and equality”.

He said road safety and need to restore sanity on the roads were a matter of grave public interest that the courts cannot ignore.

Also Read: [VIDEO] Is cashless fare and instant fines way to tame rogue cops, matatus?

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