Law society files case against internet tax

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has sued the government over the new taxes on telephone and data services, terming them discriminatory and a human rights violation.

In the case filed before the Constitutional and Human Rights Division, the lawyers body through lawyer Mercy Mutemi want not only the recently passed and assented Finance Act halted pending hearing and determination of the matter, but several of its sections declared unconstitutional.

Section 32(b)(i) of the Act introduced an excise duty of 15 percent on telephone and internet data services. According to the petition, the inevitable consequence of this tax will be to increase telephone and internet data costs.

“The internet has become so integral to everyday life that access to the internet is now considered a human right”, reads the petition in part.

The petition argues that the internet is an enabler of all the rights guaranteed under the Bill of rights and universal access to it must be guaranteed and aggressively pursued.

More than 250 government services are now offered exclusively over the internet, the majority being on e-citizen.

The lawyers argue that a government policy to increase the cost of such a basic necessity therefore discriminates against those without access to the internet on the basis of financial status and social origin.

It adds that financial discrimination of this kind is condemned under Article 27 of the Constitution.

“That government services are now offered online means that the underprivileged will now find it even harder to access government services. This is likely to bring them indignity which is contrary to Article 28 of the Constitution”, the petition reads.

They add that failure to access government information online threatens their right to access information as guaranteed under Article 35.

According to the lawyers the President violated various sections of the Constitution by making reservations and recommendations on issues that were not in the Bill initially forwarded to him for assent. They add that the National Assembly also violated the Constitution by voting on and passing various sections of the Finance Act which were introduced by the President in his Memorandum without subjecting the provisions to public participation.

LSK has sued the Attorney General, the Speaker of the National Assembly and Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).


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