Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was today put on the witness dock to testify in a defamation case where he has sued a local newspaper over malicious publication of the outcome of his divorce petition.
High Court Judge Beatrice Thuranira heard that the offending front-page article carried by the September 26-October 2, 2014 weekly edition of The Nairobian insinuated that he had misused his office to cause unexplained delays in the divorce petition he had filed against his former wife, Prof. Bervele Michele Laz.
Mutunga, claims that he suffered considerable distress and embarrassment by the sensational publication, and he is seeking general and exemplary damages for libel and malicious falsehoods.
The former CJ explained that he was aggrieved by the publication for claiming he had disobeyed court orders and was a serial defaulter in meeting his legal obligations. He Further argued that the article gave the impression that he should be removed from office for having allegedly subverted the Constitution he had sworn to uphold and protect, he said.
Dr Mutunga, who was led in his evidence-in-chief by lawyer Julius Kemboi in the defamation suit against The Standard Group, said he had initiated the divorce proceedings and eventually agreed with his former wife to pay her 150,000 Shillings monthly maintenance for six months since she was not gainfully employed. The commitment was conditional upon the settlement of the division of their matrimonial property, he said.
Court of Appeal Judge G.B.M. Kariuki, while heading the High Court’s Family Division, handled the divorce and cross-petition lodged by both parties and dissolved the marriage on July 26, 2012, on grounds of cruelty on the part of Dr Mutunga’s former wife. The contentious 150,000 shillings monthly maintenance was mutually agreed upon by the parties after the case was closed.
The hearing was adjourned to March 27 when Dr Mutunga’s witness is expected to give evidence.