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Courts gearing to comply with NCAJ directive on upscaling operations

NAIROBI, Kenya Apr 18 – Several courts are gearing up to comply with directives issued by  the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) for the upscale of sessions, tribunals and registry services from Wednesday.

The Judiciary on Friday said that Kapsabet and Mombasa law courts had already convened a meeting with Ministry of Health representatives to deliberate on the preparedness ahead of the full resumption next week

Kapsabet Law Courts Senior Principal Magistrate Jacinta Orwa met Nandi County MoH representatives on the inspection of the Court Station facilities in preparation of upscaling its operations.

And in Mombasa, the Judiciary said High Court Presiding Judge E. Ogola had chaired a Court Users’ Committee meeting to deliberate on the preparedness of upscaling court operations. Also present are Public Health Officer from the MoH.

The Chief Justice David Maraga-led council had resolved to upscale court operations that had been downscaled in measures taken to curtail the spread of coronavirus.

As of April 17, the disease had infected 246 people with 11 deaths and 53 recoveries, leaving more than 10,000 in quarantine

The High Court, Court of Appeal for criminal appeal hearings as well as all registries are expected to resume fully from April 21.

According to the new guidelines, hearing of criminal appeals by the Court of Appeal and High Court will proceed as agreed by judges in charge of appeals, the director of public prosecution, appellants and their advocates as well as prison authorities.

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Hearing of civil matters will resume fully from April 22 with, a subcommittee of NCAJ set to publish guidelines on the new operations.

“Presiding judges and heads of stations outside Nairobi shall liaise with court users committees and come up with guidelines on how civil matters which were taken out between 16 March and 22 April be dealt with,” the council stated.

Meanwhile, the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) Friday insisted its members aged 58 and above and those with preexisting conditions will continue working from home.

The association said the directive by the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NJAC) requiring them to upscale hearings can only be implemented within the confines of guidelines issued by the government.

In a joint letter addressed to the CJ, KMJA, Kenya Judges Welfare Association and Kenya Judiciary Staff Association said the health of judicial officers is paramount.

“These two groups are vulnerable and will need not to be unreasonably and unnecessarily exposed,” the statement read.

The three associations also want the Office of the Chief Registrar to ensure that the Ministry of Health audits all courtrooms and provides guidelines on the number of people who can be accommodated in a courtroom at a time.

In their recommendation, they said that the judiciary should also facilitate the movement of its staff to work and also procure safe passage for those outside four counties – Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, and Kwale – under a COVID-19 containment order.

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