Kenya: Case Backlogs to Persist as Cash, Judiciary Staff in Short Supply - Maraga

The backlog of cases s in Kenyan courts may not end soon, Chief Justice David Maraga has said.

The CJ said this is due to a reduced budget for the Judiciary and shortage of human resource.

According to Mr Maraga, without a corresponding facilitation for the Judiciary both financially and in terms of human resources, litigants and other stakeholders in the legal sector will continue talking about the never-ending problem of backlogs.

His sentiments came amid a long delay by President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint 41 judges recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Speaking Thursday at the Supreme Court building, Mr Maraga further said unless the Judiciary is given sufficient financial support, its ICT system will collapse and the impact will be devastating.

Courts are currently using the ICT system to conduct proceedings as a measure to reduce physical contacts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Technology for justice

"During the Covid-19 period, the Judiciary has tried its best in using technology to deliver justice. So far over 27,000 cases have been resolved and 12,000 rulings delivered. The e-filing system is doing well except for a few challenges which are being addressed and we will not backtrack," said Justice Maraga.

He was speaking while presiding over the unveiling of the Judiciary's various reports.

Before the event, the CJ had a private meeting at his office with MPs Kanini Kega (Budget and Appropriations Committee chairman) and Muturi Kigano (Justice and Legal Affairs Committee).

Also in the meeting was Mr Kennedy Kihara who works at the office of the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua.

"We agreed to sit and review on a few things. I told them the Judiciary is a Wanjiku's institution whom they represent. They need to think seriously on what they do for them. People designed a constitution that the budget of all institutions is in Parliament not in the Treasury," said Mr Maraga.

Reduced budget allocation

And since the Judiciary's budget allocation this year dropped to Sh17.4 billion, Mr Maraga told Mr Kega to be looking at each institution and its role in the affairs of the country when doing the budgetary appropriations.

"It is your duty as the Budget Committee of Parliament to look at each institution and critically think about the role it is playing in the affairs of this nation. Bear in mind that the Judiciary is an arm of government and resource it reasonably," CJ Maraga to Mr Kega.

The Judiciary had sought a budget of Sh31.2 billion for the current financial year but Parliament reduced the amount through the Appropriation Act.

"The moment you lose sight of the Judiciary's critical role, it will continue to be underfunded and lamentations of backlogs will continue," Mr Maraga added.

Need for more staff

On the issue of human resources, Mr Maraga said the number of cases being filed in courts across the country continues to increase steadily, highlighting the need for more staff such as judges and magistrates as well as the opening of more court stations.

The two MPs promised to intervene and address the issue of budget cuts and the current row between President Kenyatta and the Chief Justice over delayed appointment of judges as recommended by JSC.

"I would not like to see the CJ in those steps (of the Supreme Court) making appeals... .I understand there are issues with the Executive but we can reason together. I am more than ready to reason with the Judiciary and any other party. It is always good to reason behind the public eye," said Mr Kigano.

Reduced revenue bases

On his part, Mr Kega said due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government's revenue bases have reduced and as a result, Parliament will have to formulate a supplementary budget with adjustments to the original allocations.

"Covid has affected the budget base and there may be cuts but I hope there will be no cut for the Judiciary. There will be a supplementary budget," said Mr Kega.

The Chief Justice said they will meet again and discuss issues hampering the delivery of justice.

Best in case clearance

During the event, the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nyeri under Justice Nzioki wa Makau was crowned best in case clearance while the magistrates' courts registry was named overall best in the latest Judiciary index.

The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGCE) Chairperson Joyce Mutinda commended the Judiciary for allowing the commission to conduct an audit on the gender parity.

She reported that the Judiciary is close the 50-50 gender balance and had also employed people living with disabilities.

She appealed to other arms of government to follow suit.

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