, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – Chief Justice David Maraga has committed to expediting the clearance of over 60,000 cases that have been pending in various courts for periods exceeding five years.
Maraga who spoke on Friday at an event during which the Judiciary unveiled its State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Report, (SOJAR) 2016-2017 said the judicial arm of government will continue to work towards enhancing its capacity to facilitate timely conclusion and determination of suits.
“66,214 cases are aged 5-10 years and we have embarked on an accelerated case clearance programme to conclude all cases that are older than five years by the end of 2018,” Maraga said at the event which was also graced by President Uhuru Kenyatta, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Senate counterpart Kenneth Lusaka, Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, Supreme Court justices, judges of the Court of Appeal and High Courts.
According to the annual report, a total of 344,180 cases were filed at different courts nationwide during the reporting period (Financial Year 2016/17), bringing the total caseload to 533,350.
To achieve speedy delivery of justice, CJ Maraga said the Judiciary was already working on an ambitious project geared towards establishing a High Court in each of the 47 counties countrywide, in conformity with Section 12 (1) of the High Court Organization and Administration Act.
He said that thirty-nine High Courts were already in existence in 38 counties with the establishment of three of these courts in Makueni, Nyahururu and Narok counties.
Maraga assured that the establishment of High Courts in the remaining nine counties will be quickened.
“In addition, we aim to establish at least one Magistrates Court in each of the 290 sub-counties,” he said.
The CJ, however, took note of strides made in expanding the workforce of the Judiciary highlighting the increase of judges serving in superior court from 53 in the year 2011 to 159 currently.
In the 2016/17 reporting period alone, 28 judges were enlisted, Justice Maraga revealing that the male-female gender ratio of judges was standing at 60:40.
Overall, for every 52 male staff at the judiciary, there are 48 female employees.
Justice Maraga also reported the completion of the construction of ten courts in Bungoma, Garsen, Rongo and Mpeketoni during the period under review.
“Another five courts in Chuka, Kigumo, Engineer, Molo, and Makindu are complete and awaiting hand over in the first quarter of next year (2018),” he remarked.
The ambitious expansion project could, however, be impeded by the hurdle insufficient budgetary allocation poses.
Justice Maraga said the current allocation to the Judiciary, which remains at an average of 1 per cent of the national budget, could not sustain some of the undertakings including the proposed construction of a new Court of Appeal in Upper Hill to pave way for its relocation from the Supreme Court buildings.
“Indeed, in this financial year, it (judiciary funding/allocation) slipped to 0.99 per cent. This falls below the internationally recommended Judiciary Budget of 2.5 per cent of the national budget,” he pointed out albeit a 67 per cent absorption rate.
Maraga said the absorption rate of funds allocated to the Judiciary had however moved from 54 per cent in the 2015/16 Financial Year.
According to Maraga some 127 of the 5,619 staff of the judiciary are either interdicted or on suspension as a result of misdealing.
He affirmed that the Judiciary will not condone corruptions among its ranks.
The President of the Supreme Court also promised to champion the digitization of all courts by the end of his tenure with the ultimate goal of ensuring that judges shift from longhand writing which has been partly blamed for prolonged periods of determination of matters in courts.
Also noted in the report is the improved rate of convictions in anti-corruption cases which has been pegged at 72.4 per cent with 3,132 cases having been registered in courts.
During the launch of the report, an assurance was also given to fast-track the determination of commercial disputes which remains key to enhancing Kenya’s ranking in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business.
In November 2017, Kenya moved twelve places up to position 80, the determination of some 93 cases pending at the Commercial Division of the High Court alone facilitating the release of Sh1.1 billion, tied up in litigation, to the economy.
While giving his remarks President Uhuru Kenyatta had expressed concern over the prolonged period of commercial suits asking Justice Maraga to intervene and boost the country’s business environment.
“There is still a long delay in resolution of commercial cases. It still takes an average of 459 days to resolve one case according to World Bank data. We have to find a way to reduce this sharply. It hurts business,” he said.
President Kenyatta made a commitment to lobby the Parliament to make available more resources to the Judiciary so that it could achieve its expansion agenda, including the construction of Court of Appeal premises in Nairobi’s Upper Hill.
“The Executive should offer the relevant backing for implementation of judicial decisions and Parliament should not only pass relevant legislation but also avail sufficient resources to the Judiciary. This is the spirit of constitutionalism that is called for in Article 249 of our Constitution,” the President said.
The Head of State urged the Judiciary to work closely with the other two arms of government.
“The administration of justice is a national responsibility for all organs of Government and all citizens of Kenya. It thus has to be pursued and promoted jointly, across government and at all levels, as a public good,” he said.
SOJAR 2016-2017 was gazetted on Friday ahead of its release and subsequently transmitted to Parliament for debate and adoption.