Health officials assess court ahead of full Judiciary return

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Chief Justice and the president of the Supreme Court David Maraga. Photo/PD/FILE

Alphonse Mung’ahu

Ministry of Health officials spent the better part of yesterday assessing courtrooms and registries at the Milimani Law Courts ahead of the resumption of activities at the Judiciary as announced by Chief Justice David Maraga.

The officials, accompanied by some Judiciary officials, assessed how the public, advocates, litigants and prisoners will adhere to the social distancing rule during court proceedings. 

Yesterday, traffic court sitting at Milimani handled about 50 traffic files where offenders pleaded to various offences and were freed after paying fines ranging from Sh2,000 to Sh15,000. 

The health officials are expected to give guidelines on how the court will be operating, and the number of people  who should be inside at any given time.

On Thursday, Maraga issued a statement announcing the re-opening of courts doors to the public after almost two months since the shutdown on March 16 due to coronavirus.

The Judiciary appeared to have yielded to pressure from lawyers to partially open its doors to the public. 

The reopening follows numerous petitions by advocates urging the CJ to reconsider his directive to shut down the courts and give Kenyans an avenue to seek recourse in the event of violation of their rights.

The CJ declared scaling down of Judiciary  activities soon after the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the country. 

Under the auspices of the National Council on the Administration of Justice, the CJ said the council has reviewed current situation 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.

Initially, CJ Maraga had instructed that some suspects be charged from police stations, while prisoners and remandees were not to be presented to court.

“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 had said.

However, the CJ has since said operations and services at all registries shall be scaled up, with court registry supervisors reporting this week.

“There shall be a limited number of registry staff as shall be determined by stations,” the CJ said.

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