A High Court judge in Nyeri has ruled the position of deputy speaker in county assemblies legal are constitutional, contrary to rulings by his two colleagues in Meru and Machakos.
Justice Jairus Ngaah, in his 18-paged judgment delivered on Monday, found that the position is valid, according to section 178 of the Constitution, Section 21 of the Election Act and Section 9 (4) of the County Governments Act.
While ruling on a petition by political activist Amos Muchiri, that challenged the creation of the position in counties, the judge said the Constitution should be read in its entirety, not selectively.
The activist contended that the office is only recognised in the National Assembly and the Senate, not in the devolved units.
But the judge said the Constitution expressly provides for someone to stand in for the Speaker and preside over the House business whenever he or she is away.
Judge declares all county deputy speakers jobless
He also noted that Article 178 of the Constitution does not compel counties to describe the person representing the substantive Speaker as a ‘deputy speaker’, so county assemblies are free to use any other term.
“The office does not necessarily become unconstitutional simply because the legislative instruments have chosen to describe him (the office holder) as deputy speaker, when the Constitution itself has not given him such a description,” stated Justice Ngaah.
Mr Ngaah disagreed with justices Pauline Nyamweya of Machakos and Francis Gikonyo of Meru, who in 2016 and 2017 respectively, declared the office of deputy speaker in counties invalid.
Justice Nyamweya, in her decision, held that Article 178 of the Constitution does not create a substantive position and that neither do Sections 9(4) and 5 of the County Government Act nor Sections 21 (3) and 4 the Elections Act.
Judge Nyamweya further declared the provisions in Sections 21 (3) and 4 of the Elections Act unconstitutional.
Justice Gikonyo ruled that the office of the deputy speaker is only constitutional recognised in Senate and National Assembly, but not in counties.
He said it must have been the intention of the Constitution not to have the office in county assemblies.