Evolution of the doctrine of equity, and its contribution to the legal system in Kenya

Equity means fairness or justice. It is a branch of the law of England which was developed by the various Lord Chancellors courts to supplement the common law. Equity developed to make the common law a complete system of rules. Its evolution is traceable to the early petitions to the King by persons dissatisfied with the common law system. Subsequently, the petitions were heard by the Lord Chancellor but it was not until the beginning of the 16th century that the Lord Chancellor’s started handing down decisions binding in law – “doctrines of equity.”

  1. Equity was developed by the Lord Chancellors courts on the basis of the principle of fairness. Administration of justice was fast and the system was flexible. Equity developed after the common law and acts inpersonam.
  2. By reason of inconsistent decisions but Lord Chancellors equity adopted the doctrine of stare decisis and developed the maxims of equity.
  3. Equitys contribution to the Kenyan legal system is enormous: It is one of the principal sources of law of Kenya.
  4. The maxims of equity developed by the Lord Chancellors courts guide Kenyan courts.
  5. The additional remedies the courts evolved assist in the administration of justice.
  6. The procedural mechanism of discovery of documents is applied in the administration of justice.
  7. The trust relationship, recognized by equity has a fairly wide application in Kenya.
  8. The principles of equity of redemption and equitable right to redeem have wide application in the law of mortgages and charges.


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