NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 4 – The Judiciary has earmarked over 5,000 cases that have lasted more than five years in the court system for conclusion within a period of a month.
The 5,187 matters ranging from civil, criminal, commercial, and judicial reviews are set to be heard and determined in September 28 by judges stationed at the Milimani, Mombasa, Nyeri, Eldoret, Machakos, Embu, and Bungoma courts.
According to a statement from the Judiciary, cause lists for the over 5,000 matters will be available on the Judiciary website as well as that of the Law Society of Kenya.
“The cases have been listed before the judges for hearings, dismissals and/or appropriate directions,” the statement released on Tuesday read.
The new move is in line with a strategic blueprint that aims at sustaining transformation through clearance of backlog.
“The CJ during the launch of the blueprint, promised that the Judiciary will utilise the ‘service weeks’ and the day-to-day hearing arrangements to clear case backlog in the courts,” the Judiciary announced Tuesday.
According to the State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Report (SOJAR) 2016-2017, there are over 60,000 cases pending in court for between five and ten years.
The cases are among those that High Court judges who are currently on a month and a half recess which commenced on August 1 are expected to prioritise as they write rulings for concluded matters.
Chief Justice David Maraga had during the release of SOJAR 2016/17 in December 2017 undertaken to lead a reform agenda that will see the 60,000 cases that have been pending in courts for up to ten years concluded 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.
According to the 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.
The High Court currently accounts for the second highest number of unconcluded matters at over 100,000.
According to SOJAR 2016-2017 there were 119,777 pending cases at High Courts in Nairobi, Bungoma, Busia, Embu, Garissa, Homabay, Kakamega, Kericho, Kerugoya, Kisii, Kisumu, Machakos, Malindi, Meru, Mombasa, Murang’a, Nakuru, Nyeri, Trans-Nzoia and Uasin Gishu.
Magistrate Courts accounted for the highest number of cases which stood at 366,133 at the time of the publication of SOJAR 2016-2017.
The Environment and Land Courts, Employment and Labour Relations Courts, Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court had twenty-seven, 242, 13,723, 3,387 and 73 pending 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 modernisation programmes aimed at digitising documentation of court proceedings.
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 maintaining 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.
Maraga has recommended the allocation of minimum 1.5 per cent of the national budget to the Judiciary to facilitate smooth operations as the quota is progressively enhanced to attain the globally recommended threshold of 2.5 per cent.