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Family fights to save granny from jail over city property rent dispute

A family is embroiled in a court battle to save their 93-year-old grandmother from civil jail in a dispute over rent payment.

The family of Ms Kullsam Kassam is seeking a review of a decision by sacked judge Lady Justice Mary Ang’awa committing her to six months in prison for allegedly evicting the owners of Shop One Hundred Ltd from her building on Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi.

Ms Kassam is the daughter of Mohammedali Rattansi who, before his death, set up the Rattansi Education Trust.

She is the owner of NCM House that is managed by trustees due to her ill-health and advanced age.

Justice Ang’awa

Lady Justice Ang’awa in December last year found her guilty of contempt of court for allegedly evicting the owners of Shop One Hundred from her premises due to default in rent and sentenced her to six months in jail.

Her family challenged the ruling and obtained temporary orders stopping the police from arresting or handing over Ms Kassam to prison authorities.

In their application, the family through lawyer Norah Owino argues that Judge Ang’awa did not consider the health and welfare of the old granny.

“Ms Kassam is of ill-health due to old age and we don’t understand how the judge gave a ruling without considering her condition would deteriorate if she was arrested,” said Owino.

The dispute began in March 2012 when the management of NCM House refused to renew the tenancy of Shop One Hundred Ltd upon the expiry of the lease agreement.

The company allegedly refused to accept the new rent rates and the matter went to the rent tribunal where the owners got orders allowing them to evict Shop One Hundred Ltd from the building.

On August 8, 2012 when the eviction was planned, owners of Shop One Hundred rushed to court and obtained temporary injunctions stopping the process.

The order was however served on the building’s management one hour after the eviction.

They then filed an application for contempt of court against Ms Kassam and claims of Sh25 million for damages to their goods.

Justice Ang’awa in her ruling said she found Ms Kassam in contempt of that court order and sentenced her to six months without the option of a fine. She also fined the auctioneer who carried out the eviction Sh200,000.

However, the family says Ms Kassam was never served with the order since she is bedridden and confined in a house and accused the judge of being biased and ignoring their defence during the hearing of the case.

“The ruling by Justice Ang’awa was harsh, biased, unlawful and inconsiderate. Ms Kassam was not aware of orders stopping the eviction and it would be illegal to commit a 93-year-old ailing person to the harsh prison conditions,” said Mr Owino.

The family is accusing Shop 100 Ltd of lying to the court that they lost goods valued at Sh25 million during the eviction exercise.

A family is embroiled in a court battle to save their 93-year-old grandmother from civil jail in a dispute over rent payment.

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