The Jubilee administration suffered a New Year’s setback yesterday as the High Court suspended Security Act provisions giving sweeping powers to President Uhuru Kenyatta, police and spies.

The suspension of eight contentious clauses handed the Opposition Cord a sweet victory after its initial attempts to block passage of the controversial bill degenerated into mayhem, turning Parliament into a boxing ring. Thereafter, a court court refused to grant temporary injunctions.Yesterday High Court judge George Odunga ruled that eight sections of the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014 would be suspended until a three-judge panel can rule on their constitutionality. He said they raise questions about the Bill of Rights and human rights.

After the ruling, State Counsel Mwangi Njoroge unsuccessfully sought a 30-day stay, pending an appeal. He said Kenyans’ security is at stake if the Act is not enacted to the letter. President Kenyatta is politically invested in the Act and has said the new package of laws do not violate any part of the constitution and the Bill of Rights. The law is necessary to fight terrorism, the President has said.

Judge Odunga said, however, “We cannot limit the freedoms and inalienable rights in the pretext of fighting terrorism, which must be done in the confines of the law.”

He suspended clauses 12, 16, 26, 29, 48, 56, 58 and 64. Those elauses include interception of communications without a court order and covert operations and forced searches by the National Intelligence Service. Also suspended are clauses limiting media freedom and imposing jail terms of up to three years and hefty fines for reports deemed to undermine police investigations into terrorism. The orders also removed a ceiling on the number of refugees allowed to be in Kenya, as suspended definitions of what constitutes support for terrorism.

After the landmark ruling at Nairobi’s Milimani law Courts yesterday, ecstatic politicians and civil society activist s cheered and shouted: “A people united shall never be defeated.” In his ruling, the judge directed the case to Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to constitute a three-judge panel to hear the petition filed by Cord and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. However, Uhuru’s nominee for Inspector General of Police, Joseph Kipchirchir Boinett ,survived after the High Court declined to suspend clauses affecting his selection.

This paves the path for Parliament to begin his vetting and subsequent confirmation, as the legal duel over the constitutionality of the Security Act drags on. Cord Co-Principals Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula termed the ruling as “ victory for the people of Kenya” and exuded confident that the law will eventually be annulled in its entirety. “The dawn has come and we can see light again,” Raila said, emphasising his Cord’s determination to free the country from what he termed as the “bondage of Jubilee dictatorship.”

The media, which had vehemently opposed the Bill, secured a major victory. Clause 12 of the Act states: “A person who publishes or causes to be published or distributed obscene, gory or offensive material which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public is guilty of a felony and is liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both, or, where the offence is committed by a media enterprise, to a fine not exceeding Sh5 million. Also suspended is a clause requiring police permission to disseminate informationeeds related to an ongoing security operation.

Rights of an accused were also restored after the judge suspended clause 16 which allows the State to withhold certain evidence from the defense until immediately before a hearing. Senator James Orengo, who is representing Cord, opposed the governmen’ts appeal for a 30-day stay, saying that would defeat the purpose of the petition. “My lord, even an hour of stay should not be allowed. What should be done is to fix a hearing date,” Orengo said.

Odunga said he cannot fix the date, as it will be determined by the three judges to be appointed by the Chief Justice.