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Supreme Court of Kenya

The Supreme Court of Kenya is the highest court in Kenya. It is established under Article 163 of the Kenyan Constitution. As the highest court in the nation, its decisions are binding and set precedent on all other courts in the country.[1]


The Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction, as well as the jurisdiction to give advisory opinions. The Court has exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes relating to the elections to the office of president arising under Article 140 of the Constitution. It has appellate jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from the Court of Appeal and any other court or tribunal as prescribed by national legislation.

Appeals can only be as a matter of right, where the case involves interpretation or application of the Constitution or a matter certified by the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal as one that involves a matter of general public importance. The Supreme Court may review a certification by the Court of Appeal and either affirm, vary or overturn it.

The Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to render advisory opinion at the request of the National Government, any state organ, or any county government with respect to any matter concerning County Governments. It can also determine the validity of a declaration of a state of emergency, an extension of such a declaration, or any legislation enacted in consequence of a declaration of a state of emergency.

Objective of the CourtEdit

These are provided for in Section 3 of the Supreme Court Act, No. 7, of 2011.

  1. Assert the supremacy of the Constitution and the sovereignty of the people of Kenya
  2. Provide authoritative and impartial interpretation of the Constitution
  3. Develop rich jurisprudence that respects Kenya’s history and traditions and facilitates its social, economic and political growth
  4. Enable important constitutional and other legal matters, especially matters on transition to the new Constitution be determined with due regard to the circumstances, history and cultures of the people
  5. Improve access to justice


The Supreme Court is made up of seven judges: the Chief Justice of Kenya, who is the president of the Court, the Deputy Chief Justice of Kenya, who is the deputy to the Chief Justice and vice-president of the court and five other judges. The Supreme Court is properly constituted for purposes of its proceedings when it has a composition of five judges.

In the event that a Chief Justice serves the mandatory ten years as Chief Justice before turning 70, the retired Chief Justice can opt to continue serving as an associate justice, even though this may raise the membership of the court above seven.


Current justicesEdit

Following a protracted case on the retirement age of judges who were appointed under the old Constitution of Kenya, the Supreme Court delivered a ruling which effectively set the retirement age at 70 years, sending the Deputy Chief Justice and one other Supreme Court Judge who had reached 70 on retirement.[2] The following are the current members of the Supreme Court:[3]

Former JusticesEdit

2013 presidential election petitionEdit

The first round of the presidential election took place on March 4, 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the president-elect of Kenya by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Raila Odinga challenged this in the Supreme Court due to several technicalities, including discrepancies in voter numbers as reported by the IEBC, and the failure of biometric voter registration kits; it was ultimately dismissed on March 30, 2013.

At the end of the petition, the Supreme Court declined to nullify the election and affirmed the victory of Uhuru Kenyatta.

2017 presidential election petitionEdit

The 2017 presidential election took place on August 8, 2017, with the IEBC declaring Uhuru Kenyatta as the winner. Although Raila Odinga and his NASA coalition leaders challenged the declaration, they indicated that they would not file a petition in the Supreme Court given their experience at the Court when they filed a similar petition after the 2013 general election. However, the coalition announced three days later that they would file a case following the government's decision to shut down two leading civil society organizations that had been expected to file a petition at the Court.

Raila Odinga's petition was based on several grounds, including the discrepancy in the presidential vote tally compared to the tally of other elections (the presidential vote tally exceeded the total tally of votes cast for county governors across the country by over half a million), and allegations that the electoral commission's electronic vote transmission system was hacked and a formula introduced which kept Uhuru Kenyatta's vote tally at a consistent 11% ahead of Odinga even as the vote tallies supposedly came in from different parts of the country in which the candidates enjoyed varied support. A statistician prepared an affidavit to show that this gap was statistically impossible if votes came in randomly from different parts of the country. The petitioner also alleged that results declaration forms submitted by the electoral commission were forged to mirror the computer-generated results that were publicly displayed on the results transmission portal that had been hacked, prompting Odinga to refer to the elected leaders as "Vifaranga vya computer", Swahili for "computer hatchlings" or computer-generated leaders.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Supreme Court rendered a majority decision on September 1, 2017 holding that the election was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and other electoral laws, that there were illegalities and irregularities committed by the electoral commission including in the results transmission process, and that the said illegalities and irregularities affected the integrity of the election. The Court thus nullified the election and ordered the IEBC to conduct a fresh one within 60 days in accordance with the Constitution, and while observing strict adherence to the law in the new election. Two judges – Justice Prof J. B. Ojwang' and Lady Justice Njoki Ndung'u – dissented.

The Court delivered a brief verdict on September 1, 2017, saying that it did not have the time to prepare a full reasoned judgment due to the amount of evidence presented. A full judgment is to be read in 21 days.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Supreme Court Overview". The Judiciary. Republic of Kenya. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016.
  2. ^ Reporter, Standard. "Supreme Court dismisses Rawal, Tunoi appeal on retirement age". Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Kenya Law: May 2013 (LNs 74-84)". Retrieved 4 September 2017.

External linksEdit