Landmark Ruling Issued on Use of Photos as Evidence of Marriage

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  • The High Court in Embu made a crucial ruling on Monday, that stated that married people cannot use photographs as evidence of their union in property row cases.

    "Pictures can only be used to tell a story about people and their interaction," Justice Florence Muchemi directed.

    This ruling was issued in a case involving the distribution of Njeru Njagi's estate, where Njagi’s daughter, Annete Wandia, filed a complaint against Ms Irene Waithira, who claimed to be her stepmother.

    Wandia told the court that she did not know about the relationship between her father and Waithira. She urged the court to revoke the letters of administration of the estate issued to her alleged stepmother, as she maintained that the woman is not her kin.

    Kenyans following a court proceeding in the past

    The plaintiff added that Waithira did not participate in her father’s funeral arrangements and burial.

    Wandia’s uncle, Isaac Mugambi, told the court that his brother’s known wife was Wandia’s biological mother who had died.

    The defendant, Waithira, fought back maintaining that she was married to Njagi in a traditional ceremony, though she was not aware if dowry had been paid.

    She produced 13 photographs taken with Njagi in her efforts to prove that she was his wife.

    One of the photos was of herself and Njagi and another was of a birthday party of her grandchild, where Wandia appeared to be served a cake by the child.

    Waithira countered the claim that she did not attend Njagi’s burial, by tabling a photograph of her laying a wreath on the grave.

    Justice Florence dismissed her use of the pictures to prove the marriage, though she acknowledged that they demonstrated a deep interaction between Njagi and the respondent.

    The court was told that Njagi took Waithira as his companion in 1997, after his wife died a few years earlier.

    By the time of his death, the two had cohabited for about five years.

    She added that they did not have children but Njagi adopted her daughter, named Rahab.

    The judge, however, ruled that there was no customary marriage between the respondent and Njagi. 

    A photo showing the entrance of Embu Law Courts