Court blocks NTSA attempt to revoke driving school licences

Thursday, November 5th, 2020 00:00 |
NTSA officers conduct a crackdown on matatus with noisy exhausts. Photo/PD/File

Bernice Mbugua @BerniceMuhindi

The High Court has declared  unconstitutional a decision by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to revoke 322 licenses for driving schools.

Justice James Makau ruled that the decision, which was announced in 2019 by NTSA was not expeditious, efficient, lawful, reasonable and procedurally fair.

“The Respondents’ administrative action violated the Constitution and the statutes and is therefore, invalid, null and void,” ruled the Judge.

NTSA revoked 322 driving school licenses last year for failure to submit the required documentation for vetting.

Activist Okiya Omtatah, however, moved to court alleging that NTSA acted contrary to the law by implementing the yet to be gazetted Traffic (Driving Schools and Instructors) Rules 2014 (2017) and other policy documents developed thereunder when it closed down the  driving schools.

Omtatah contended that on April 30, 2019, NTSA initiated the impugned revalidation exercise by publishing a public notice in the press and posting it in other media including on its website.

Notice required all operators of driving schools to download the Driving School Revalidation Forum from its website and submit the duly completed form to the nearest NTSA offices within 14 days from the date of the notice; failure to which their licenses would be revoked.

On May 7, 2019, NTSA issued another press release where it stated that operators of driving schools who did not download and submit duly completed forms on the due date would have their licenses revoked.

NTSA in response, claimed that suspended schools were given an opportunity to apply for reinstatement of their school licenses upon meeting the stipulated conditions.

Mandatory examination  

According to NTSA, the revalidation of driving schools was conducted in a fair and reasonable manner and under the Traffic (Driving School) Rules, 1971 and not the Traffic (Driving Schools, Driving Instructors and Driving Licenses) Rules 2018 as alleged by Omtatah.

 Justice Makau, however, noted that the Traffic (Driving Schools) Rules, 1971 require a mandatory physical examination of the premises and facilities, yet NTSA opted to act online by requiring the parties to self-assess.

“I find that Parliament, in its wisdom, never intended that the regulation facilitates self-assessment online.

The First Respondent (NTSA) was duty bound to discharge its responsibility through visiting each of the schools so as to be satisfied with respective compliance with the rules as set out under Rule 14(1) of the Traffic (Driving Schools) Rules, 1971,”  noted the judge.

According to Makau, the closure of the 332 schools for not downloading and submitting the duly filled forms was oppressive, unreasonable, and unlawful and therefore null and void.

“This was wrong as the decision was arrived at without conducting a physical examination of the premises to ascertain that the schools did not qualify to be licensed,” Makau ruled.

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