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University loses plea to suspend students

20 December 2013, 12:18 Millicent Kawii

Nairobi - Two university students have won a court battle against being suspended by their varsity’s disciplinary committee.

Zachary Wangunza and Kwame Ochola Otinda, third year Environmental Science Students at Kenyatta University were suspended and asked to pay for a laptop belonging to one of their lecturers.

High Court judge George Odunga ruled that the decision to send the students for a one year suspension was wrong as proper conclusive investigations into the alleged theft were not carried out and that was an unfair treatment.

“Ordinarily there is nothing essentially wrong with charging several people with one offence and even meting out different sentences since in the commission of an offence there are principal offenders and accessories either after the fact or before the fact. However, it is my view that such a reason must pass the test of reasonableness. In other words there ought to be a rational explanation if the decision is not to be termed as bizarre,” Justice Odunga ruled.

While quashing the decision by Kenyatta University’s disciplinary committee, judge Odunga acknowledged that even though theft is a criminal offence that cannot be doubted, it is an allegation that can be investigated and tried in court despite the crime being committed within the varsity’s premises.

“In the result whereas to fault the finding that the accused students participated in the alleged offence would require this court to inquire into the merits of the decision of the Students Disciplinary Committee, it is my view and I so find that the arbitrary imposition of a more severe sentence on Zachary and Kwame other than the one imposed on fellow students was irrational and failed to meet the test of reasonableness,” he said.

Zachary, Kwame, Paul Ombogi Ombaso, Wanagre M. Kariuki, Ouma Janavier and Wangari Kamkia Simon went to their learning institution on the fateful day and sat for a continuous assessment test and thereafter left separately.

The students disciplinary committee then summoned Zachary, Kwame and 12 other students on 17th January 2013 demanding an explanation on the Fujitsu laptop worth KES 194,000.

Zachary received a phone call on February 28 to collect his verdict letter on March 11 which required him to pay Sh 27,800 by April 30 and that “the money should not be paid into the fee account” and further that he was suspended for one academic year to resume studies in January 2014.

According to him, the same letter had been addressed to four others who were only given stern warnings.

However, in the course of consultations with his other classmates it transpired that Ouma and Simon were penalized to pay but were not suspended.

The judge said the committee did not give any reasons as to how it arrived at its decision to penalize and suspend the two nor was an explanation given as to the different punishments meted out.

Zachary claimed was a manifestly flawed administrative decision.

He was the one who appeared last before the panel and from the cross-examination it seemed like it was the lecturer himself who was conducting the inquiry and had inquired from him whether his laptop was installed and probably this is was what incriminated him.

- News24

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