BIG REPRIEVE

High Court rules out degree requirement for MP aspirants

Judge said disputed provision failed to undertake adequate public participation.

In Summary

• Justice Anthony Mrima on Wednesday ruled that Section  22(1)(b) (i) of the Elections Act which requires MPs to have degrees is unconstitutional.

• The ruling comes as a big reprieve to many who do not have an academic qualifications. 

The ruling comes as a big reprieve to many who do not have an academic qualifications.
The ruling comes as a big reprieve to many who do not have an academic qualifications. 
Image: FILE

Aspirants seeking to become MPs in the August 9, 2022, General Election can now breathe easy after the High Court quashed a requirement that they must have university degrees.

Justice Anthony Mrima on Wednesday ruled that Section  22(1)(b) (i) of the Elections Act which requires MPs to have degrees is unconstitutional.

In a ruling delivered virtually from Nairobi, Justice Mrima said the disputed provision had failed to undertake adequate public participation.

"An order is hereby issued that Section  22(1) (b) (i) of the Elections Act is inoperational, of no legal effect, and void ab initio. For clarity, the requirement that a person must possess a degree from a university recognised in Kenya to qualify to become a Member of Parliament in Kenya is hereby nullified," Mrima said.

The ruling comes as a big reprieve to many who do not have an academic qualifications. 

Last month, IEBC  failed to declare whether those without degrees would not be cleared to run. The polls agency said it was awaiting the court ruling.

In February, Senators backed a bill scrapping the requirement of a degree for both MP and MCA aspirants.

The courts had already ruled MCAs do not require degrees to run for office.

In the Senate, members said the requirement was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The Election (Amendment) Bill, 2020 lowers the threshold for qualification to contest for a political seat in the August 9 general election and future polls.

It amends section 22 of the controversial Elections Act.

“This degree requirement is unfair and unfortunate because it is clear in Article 38 of the Constitution that everyone has a right without unnecessary restrictions to enjoy political rights,” Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said.

Murkomen was the sponsor of the bill.

In the High Court case, the ruling followed a petition by voters Paul Macharia Wambui, Joseph Karanja Muchai and David Kimani Njenga.

Lawyer Adrian Kamotho had claimed the IEBC had released the 2022 general elections calendar and declared Tuesday 9 August 2022 as the date for the election for the position of Member of Parliament.

Kamotho says the gazette notices declaring elections for the said position do not disclose the educational requirements applicable to the position.

"The failure to disclose the qualification attendant to the position of MP impedes the right to administrative action," he said.

On 15 October 2021, the High Court declared unconstitutional Section 22 of the Elections Act that requires MCA aspirants to have a university degree.

Kamotho asked Justice Mrima to nullify a similar requirement for MPs which also included senators.

"Due to other lingering confusion, and lack of clarity by IEBC, there is a danger that duly qualified and patriotic citizens who desire to serve the nation in the capacity of MP may be illegitimately locked out,”  he said.


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