NAIROBI,Kenya Apr 16 – The National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) Thursday resolved to upscale courts sessions, tribunals and registry services beginning Wednesday, April 22 following consultations among justice sector players including the Law Society of Kenya.
The Chief Justice David Maraga-led justice council also ordered the presentation of suspects in court within 24 hours of arrest as required by law as the Judiciary aims to scale up its operations which had been downscaled in measures taken to curtail the spread of coronavirus.
The High Court, Court of Appeal for criminal appeal hearings as well as all registries are expected to upscale sessions from April 21.
“The hearing of criminal appeals by the High Court and the Court of Appeal shall be scaled and proceed through modalities to be agreed by judges seized by the appeals, the DPP, appellants and their advocates as well as prison authorities,” NCAJ stated in a statement.
The council however said court sessions will be conducted in strict adherence to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to ensure the protection of judicial staff and court users.
“All pending judgments and rulings shall, in accordance with guidelines of the Ministry of Health will henceforth be delivered in open court upon notice to litigants and their advocates,” the statement noted.
Court registry staff have also been re-called in limited numbers to ensure compliance with the Ministry of Health guidelines.
“Orders shall be extracted by registries and released to litigants and their advocates within twenty-four hours of their making,” NCAJ stated.
The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) had called for the re-opening of courts, a proposal objected by Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KWJA) on grounds that it was unreasonable.
KWJA said the Judiciary officers were not exempted from regulations of the Ministry of Health on social distancing.
LSK said that the decision to scale down operations had hindered delivery of justice to many Kenyans even as the country battles the virus which has so far infected 225 and killed 10 people.
Under the new guidelines, all pending judgments shall be delivered in open court while matters filed when the courts were closed will be handled according to new guidelines to be issued by a NCAJ subcommittee.
“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.
The Maraga-chaired committee brings together representatives from various state entities including the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Chief Executive of the Ethics and Anti Corruption(EACC), the Commissioner General of Prisons, the President of the Law Society of Kenya and three LSK council members.