The Chief Justice yesterday officially launched a Court of Appeal in Nyeri town.CJ Mutunga said the court, which is the first Court of Appeal to be launched outside Nairobi, is aimed at bringing services closer to Kenyans.
The court has been operational for two months. Mutunga, who was with Court of Appeal and High Court judges, said the court will save citizens travel expenses and create time for judges to do "more reading, more listening and more judging".
Those present included Nyeri Court of Appeal judges led by Justice Alnashir Visram, Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Kihara Kariuki, Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua, Nyeri Senator Mutahi Kagwe and Nyeri town MP Esther Murugi. Mutunga said there were 86 pending criminal appeals when the decentralisation began two months ago, 34 had been decided by last Friday and 32 fresh appeals filed. He said there were 175 pending civil appeals, the court has decided 57 and received 13 new ones.
"This will ease the backlog as the system of rotating Court of Appeal judges on circuits meant that appeals filed in Nyeri could only be heard once, maybe twice in a year even as they piled month by month," Mutunga said.
The CJ said the Judicial Service Commission hired 15 new Court of Appeal judges last year in addition to the seven recruited in 2011 to speed up the wheels of justice. "Early this year, the Court of Appeal listed, heard and concluded 200 cases in Mombasa and Nairobi. We believe that these successes can be repeated everywhere in Kenya," Mutunga said.
Besides the large numbers in Nairobi, Mombasa had 805 pending cases, Kisumu 903 and Nyeri 447. Since mid April, judges have been posted to Malindi, Kisumu, Eldoret and Nyeri, where they have begun to have a great impact in reducing pending cases. Gachagua urged Mutunga to set up a 24-hour court to deal with petty offenders. "Decentralising the Court of Appeal makes it the most accessible highest court across the country.
This court shall radiate its knowledge across the country as a model for all the others. Its leadership in promoting constitutional development, through its appellate jurisdiction, becomes weightier if a matter is not litigated in the Supreme Court," he added. He added that although the Supreme Court is the highest court in Kenya, it can choose whether or not to hear an appeal. This means that the Court of Appeal will be the final forum for litigating many cases.
Mutunga said every county should have a high court as required by the law to ease the number of cases going to appeal. Already, there are Court of Appeal judges hearing cases in Malindi, Kisumu and Eldoret.