High Court Judge John Chigiti has issued orders suspending the registration and issuance of new digital IDs by the government until February 6, 2024.
In a brief ruling on Tuesday, December 5, Justice Chigit issued the conservatory orders barring the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and the Attorney General Justin Muturi, their agents or servants, from registration and insurance on Kenyans with the digital ID dubbed Maisha Namba pending the hearing of a case filed by Katiba Institute.
"The leave shall operate as a stay, restraining implementation or further implementation by any person of the Respondent's November 1, 2023 decision to roll out or pilot the Maisha Namba, including the digital card, digital ID, unique personal identifier, and a National Master Population Register, before and without a data protection impact assessment per Section 31 of the Data Protection Act," Justice Chigiti ordered.
While allowing the Katiba institute prayers to formally institute a judicial review suit seeking to quash President William Ruto's administration decision of November 1, 2023, to roll out the Maisha Namba Cards, the judge noted the lawsuit by the lobby group raises serious issues that warranted the issuance of the stay orders.
"Upon perusing the application alongside the annexures therein, I find that the application is not frivolous or vexatious. It raises an arguable case that should be heard and determined on merit within the Fair Administrative Action Act framework.
"Having been satisfied as such and in exercise of my discretion under Order 53 of the Civil Procedure Rules, I hereby direct that leave is hereby granted in terms of prayer 2, and leave shall also operate as a stay in terms of prayer 3 of the said application," Chigiti ruled.
He also certified the case urgent and ordered Katiba Institute to serve CS Kindiki and the AG with the pleading within 7 days.
14 days for respondents
Further, the respondents were granted 14 days to file their responses to the dispute before mention of the case on February 6, 2024.
In the court papers, the Katiba Institute cites inadequate public participation and a lack of robust legal framework in enacting the digital ID dubbed Maisha Namba as among their main areas of concern, even as the country gears to transition to third-generation identity cards.
"This application concerns the November 1, 2023 decision to roll out Maisha Namba Cards. Katiba Institute contends that in making the decision, the Respondents acted ultra vires section 31 of the Data Protection Act, in violation of court orders, in a manner that both threatens to violate the right to privacy and the right to public participation of millions of Kenyans, and in a way that unfairly excludes minority and marginalised communities from obtaining identification documentation and accessing government services," Katiba Institute lawyer Dudley Ochiel informed the judge.