, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – Chief Justice David Maraga is on Monday set to officially open the Annual Judges’ Colloquium in Mombasa alongside visiting South African counterpart Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Mogoeng has been in the country since Thursday last week and has since held peer-to-peer talks with Maraga.
The Annual Judges’ Colloquium comes at a time when the High Court is on a month and a half-long recess that begun on August 1.
Each High Court Division has been allocated a duty judge to hear urgent matters during the period of recess.
During the recess expected to run until September 14 judges will prioritize on concluding pending judgments in line with Chief Justice Maraga’s ambition to clear over 60,000 cases that have been in pendency for between five to ten years by the end of the year.
“Sixty-six thousand, two hundred and fourteen 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 had said in December last year when he released the State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Report (SOJAR) 2016-2017.
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.
Among issues expected to be canvassed at the colloquium will include clearing of case backlog given that High Courts account for the second highest number of unconcluded matters at over 100,000.
According to SOJAR 2016-2017 there were 119,777pending cases at High Courts in Nairobi, Bungoma, Busia, Embu, Garissa, Homabay, Kakamega, Kericho, Kerugoya, Kisii, Kisumu, Machakos, Malindi, Meru, Mombasa, Muranga, Nakuru, Nyeri, Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu.
Magistrate Courts accounted for the highest number of the backlog which stands at 366,133 according to SOJAR 2016-2017.
The Environment and Land Courts, Employment and Labour Relations Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court have 27,242, 13,723, 3,387 and 73 unconcluded cases respectively.
Cumulatively, Magistrate Courts and High Courts in Nairobi accounted for 92 per cent of pending cases at 69 and 23 per cent respectively.
To improve efficiency in courts, the judiciary has been implementing court modernization programmes aimed at digitizing documentation of court proceedings.
READ: Judiciary focuses on digitization to quicken dispensation of justice
A Judiciary Financial Management Information System (JFMIS) has also been rolled out which once fully adopted will significantly reduce the time it takes to file and retrieve case files as well as address incidences of missing files.
The Judiciary however faces an uphill talk in maintain the tempo of its drive towards efficiency with drastic budget cuts threatening to bring to a halt a total of 70 ongoing court modernization and construction projects seen as critical to the success of the Judiciary Transformation Framework (JTF).
According to Maraga, the downward revision of Judiciary funding capped at Sh17.3 billion in the 2018/19 national budgetary policy statement to Sh14.5 billion in the Appropriation Act had left the Judiciary with only Sh50 million in development budget.
The 70 projects to be affected by the slashing of the Judiciary’s funding include 41 government-funded projects and 29 funded by the World Bank.
Mobile courts have also been suspended due to inadequate funding.