Kenya: Coronavirus - Milimani Court Operates Under a Tree

Second hand clothes on display at a stall in Toi Market in Nairobi.

The duty magistrate at Milimani law court in Nairobi yesterday declined to sit in a court room, instead choosing to operate in an open area under a tree at the car park as a measure to prevent spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19).

In the rare occurrence, Senior Resident Magistrate Muthoni Nzibe conducted the court's business in a session that saw the accused persons, their lawyers, court orderlies and other litigants denied seats.

Only the magistrate, the court assistant and two prosecutors were provided with white plastic chairs.

The proceedings were frequently disrupted by wind blowing file documents, forcing the magistrate to hold them down to the brown desk.

With two uniformed police officers standing behind her, Ms Nzibe was also wearing white rubber gloves, perhaps an extra measure to shield her from contracting the virus.

To enforce the Ministry of Health directive that people should maintain a distance of at least one metre from each other, Ms Nzibe often reminded her assistant and the accused persons to stay apart.

When reading charges to the accused persons, the court assistant had to shout due to noise from moving vehicles, birds and the wind.

Among the cases that Ms Nzibe presided over was one involving publication of a false advert on social media by Dr Pranav Pancholi and Ms Sylvia Ndinda of Avane Cosmetic Dermatology Clinic & Medical Spa located at Yaya Centre, Nairobi.

But contrary to the normal practice where suspects get locked in holding cells at the court's basement awaiting processing by the prosecution so as to appear in court, the two were not detained.

Instead, they remained standing along court corridors for more than two hours under the watchful eye of police officers from the Kilimani Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

The two accused persons arrived at the law courts minutes before 9 am and answered to charges at 11 am.

They were arrested on Monday by DCI detectives and Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Board officers for posting an advert claiming they had Covid-19 Rapid Self-Test Kits going for Sh3,000.

The advert expressed urgency, saying only 400 of the alleged 1,000 test kits had remained in stock, State Counsel Jacinta Nyamosi and Joseph Riungu told the magistrate.

Upon interrogation, the two accused persons were found in contravention of the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Act CAP 253 Laws of Kenya and thus charged in court accordingly.

Dr Pancholi was separately charged with operating an unregistered and unlicensed health institution while Ms Ndinda faced a charge of performing a medical procedure without proper training, registration or licensing.

The court heard that Ms Ndinda was doing cool sculpting on a patient without requisite training, registration and licensing.

They denied the charges and were released on a cash bail of Sh150,000, with the case slated for mention on April 20 for further directions.

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