The High Court has suspended a notice on closure of land registries in Nairobi.
Justice Weldon Korir issued the temporary order in a case in which lawyers had protested against the imminent closure as part of the government’s plan to digitise land records.
Last week, the Law Society of Kenya sued the Attorney-General, the Land CS Farida Karoney and the Principal Secretary Nicholas Muraguri over the notice.
“Pending the hearing and determination of this case, a conservatory order in the nature of an injunction restraining the CS and the PS, their agents or any persons acting on their behalf from closing the said registries for auditing records for three weeks as per the notice in local dailies on February 20,” the judge said.
According to the lawyers, the closure would stifle operations with some documents which have already been assessed by the collector of stamp duty risking attracting penalties due to delay.
They also argued that there will be losses or misplacement of records during the audit process and that transactions where advocates or financiers have issued undertakings for performance of various obligations will be jeopardised.
Lawyers claimed that there will be frustrations of various contracts where obligations of parties are tied to timelines dependent on functions of the land registries as well as cost implications.
In the case documents, lawyers alleged that they petitioned the National Assembly on January 21 to investigate the massive failure of land management system.
LSK pointed a finger at the Cs and her PS of failing to follow proper procedure for the approval of the land registration electronic land transaction regulations 2019.
Whilst LSK had asked the CS and Ps to recall or suspend the closure notice so as to allow consultation as well as public participation, the duo have not yet done so.
LSK also alleged that property owners stand a risk of being exposed to fraud.
Two years ago, the ministry indicated that Kenya is also exploring ways of moving its land registry on to a block chain platform, which is a ledger of digital transactions that make records secure and easily verifiable.
The initiative is aimed at cutting out graft at the land registries and allow more people to secure their land rights.
But lawyers who usually benefit from helping out people in doing land transactions at a fee fear that the new system will still be corrupted hence want to be involved and not left out.