Chief Justice Maraga: Effect other methods of dispute resolution
Chief Justice David Maraga has once again called for exploration of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Presiding over admission of 144 new advocates, the CJ urged those being admitted to the roll to be committed to the delivery of justice and to represent clients faithfully.
Alternative dispute resolution which refers to resolving disputes without litigation has acquired urgency as apart of delivery of justice whose wheels invariably appear to grind at glacial pace. For years, the Judiciary has at best scored averagely due to lack of human resource and infrastructure.
Considerably, more must be done to improve delivery of justice. The statistics are damning and compounded by rules of procedure since the litigation option is oppressively slow. There are upwards of 20,000 people presumed innocent but who are remanded, majority facing petty offences.
Its is not the first time the CJ is talking of the need for alternative dispute resolution. True, there has been stepped up construction of courts and appointment of more magistrates and judges. However, the downside was the funding cut by Parliament for the Judiciary and the suffocating reality of case backlog.
But stressing the need for dispute resolution must move from declaration of intent to a policy implementation issue. Besides legalese and numerous inherent encumbrances, litigation is too rigidly configured, which is why exploring other alternatives has become so pressing. But this also entails other considerations; training those who will drive it and the processes to be used to give the option life and validity.
This is the challenge the CJ must address himself to if our choking penal and correctional institutions are to breathe. We cannot wait. Such methods as the planned stepping up of clearing cases announced yesterday to clear 2,000 cases during the Judiciary service week are good gestures but will not do much to crack the edifice of backlog and the thousands denied justice.
The Judiciary has come some way in recovering from negative perception and gaining measure of public trust, a far cry from days when courts were likened to auction houses where judgment was sold to highest bidders. But sloppiness and lethargy still saddle the Judiciary. Digitising court processes has been long overdue so that the nightmare of manipulation by rogue lawyers and disappearance of files is checked.