Kenya: Courts Deliver 7,000 Judgments Digitally

18 September 2020

7,000 judgments have been delivered by various courts in the country during this Covid-19 era through the use of technology.

Chief Justice David Maraga revealed this while receiving a donation of computers from the European Union to the judiciary and other agencies in the justice sector at the Supreme Court building on Wednesday.

While admitting that the pandemic had pushed the Judiciary to step up efforts to embrace technology, he pointed out that it has also exposed its readiness to upscale processes.

"The use of technology in dispensation of justice has since proved an invaluable channel through which we can carry out operations in the justice sector during this period of scaled down court operations," he said.

"We have so far managed to deliver approximately 7,000 judgments during this period. There is no doubt that the crisis has provided an opportunity for us in the justice sector to reflect on how to address the current gaps related to technology in the enhancement of justice."

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, the Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogala, the Director of Probation and Aftercare Services Mary Mbau and the Judiciary's Chief Registrar Anne Amadi were also present at the event.

ENHANCE SERVICE DELIVERY

The CJ said the computers will come in handy in delivery of e-justice, especially at the Court of Appeal which has many cases and a shortage of such equipment in penal facilities where convicts and remandees are held.

He pointed out that since prisons got the bulk of computers, the move will help facilitate hearing of appeals which had been slowed down owing to the coronavirus.

"It may take a while to reach a critical level of operations but with determination, we will enhance our services using technological platforms available," said Justice Maraga.

Soon after confirmation of Kenya's first Covid-19 case, the Judiciary moved to release practice direction for electronic case management.

This included closing the courts and only having few mandatory sittings in the open, hearing of cases online via platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft team and Facebook, filing of cases via email and serving court orders on WhatsApp.

LSK DISGRUNTLED

But while the Judiciary has blown its own trumpet over the high number of judgments delivered during this period, lawyers under the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) say they are not content with the quality of rulings made.

They have criticised some of the judgments issued on these platforms as lacking in-depth legal research.

While pointing out that lawyers are not opposed to the use of technology in delivering justice, LSK President Nelson Havi has raised questions over judges and magistrates' access to court files.

"The manner in which the judiciary is handling this is poor. Advocates are dissatisfied and we will release a report in about three days. We are in support of technology but not window-dressing," said Mr Havi.

The LSK boss said that judges and magistrates have no access to court files, hence affecting the quality of decisions being released.

He explained that the Ministry of Health is yet disinfect and fumigate court registries, hence court clerks are afraid to set foot in the premises which remain closed.

As a result, he reckons, judges and magistrates have nowhere to make references when writing their decisions except from fresh filings done via email.

"Judges and magistrates are writing decisions from their own handwritten notes, from submissions filed online and not what was already in the court file. So the content and jurisprudential value of these judgments is doubtful," he added.

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