Date of reopening courts for public set
The Judiciary has yielded to pressure from lawyers to partially open its doors to the public and announced that it will do so beginning April 21.
This follows numerous petitions by advocates asking the Chief Justice David Maraga to reconsider his decision to shut down the courts and give Kenyans an avenue for seeking recourse in the event of violation of their rights.
In the wake of confirmation of Kenya’s first case of the deadly coronavirus, the courts had declared a scaling down of its activities.
On Thursday, Maraga announced measures to scale up court functions by reviewing its operations in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
Under auspices of the National Council on the administration of justice, the CJ said the council has reviewed current situation in the administration of justice and directed that all suspects, will now be arraigned in court within 24 hours, irrespective of the nature of the offence.
“Unless otherwise released on bond or bail by police stations where they are held,” Maraga said in a statement sent to newsrooms.
He added: “The hearing of criminal appeals by the High Court and the court of Appeal shall be scaled and proceed through modalities to be agreed upon judges seized of the appeals, the DPP, appellants and their advocates as well as prison authorities,”
Where applicable, the CJ disclosed the appeals will be heard by video link and where facilities for video link are not available, in open court subject to compliance with the guidelines of the ministry of Health in combating COVID-19.
“The judiciary shall be put in place measures to ensure compliance with the Ministry of Health guidelines on combating the spread of COVID-19 during the hearings,” he noted.
Initially, Chief Justice David Maraga had instructed that some suspects be charged from police stations.
While prisoners and remandees were not be presented to court for the period the Judiciary shut its doors.
“With regard to new arrests, all cases except serious ones will be dealt with at police stations in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Inspector-General of Police,” he said then.
From Tuesday next week, the CJ has indicated operations and services in all registries shall be scaled up, with court registry supervisors reporting to the registries.
“There shall be a limited number of registry staff as shall be determined by stations,” the CJ said.
As such, he directed the Chief registrar of the Judiciary shall liaise with the ministry of Health and heads of stations to ensure that adequate measures are put in place for protection of judicial staff and court users.
Henceforth, all pending judgements and rulings shall in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on combating the coronavirus be delivered in open court upon notice to litigants and their advocates.
Whereas, orders will henceforth be extracted by registries and released to litigants or their advocates within 24 hours.
In the directives, judges and heads of stations outside Nairobi have been asked to liaise with courts users committees and come up with guidelines on how hearings and appeals will be conducted.
“The NCAJ Subcommittee shall in conjunction with the heads of divisions in Nairobi come up with guidelines on how matters which were taken out between 16th March, 2020 and 22nd April, 2020 will be dealt with,” Maraga added.
The same also applies for stations outside Nairobi.
“The suspension of execution of civil orders and decrees and eviction orders made before 16th March, 2020, remains in force until 22nd April, 2020,” Maraga added.
In addition to the measures, the team is expected to meet on April 21st this year, to review progress of the resolutions.