Judiciary scales up operations, issues new court guidelines

Monday, June 15th, 2020 12:00 |
Chief Justice and the president of the Supreme Court David Maraga. Photo/PD/FILE

Alphonce Mung’ahu

The Judiciary has outlined various guidelines to be followed as it scales up operations starting today.

Protocols such as social distancing and limiting the number of people accessing courts will be observed in line with measures to stop the spread of coronavirus.

“To promote social distancing, we shall limit the number of people physically accessing the courts at any given time.

Kindly cooperate with the officers responsible at the court entrances,” said the Judiciary.

In the new guidelines released at the weekend, the Judiciary indicated that on allocation of hearing dates, priority will be given to cases whose hearing was affected by scaling down of operations.

“For civil cases, courts have contact details of all parties and their advocates. Parties/advocates are therefore advised to wait to be contacted by the court,” read the statement in part.

In terms of criminal cases, accused persons will be summoned to court through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the police.

“To control crowds, courts will allocate staggered hearing schedules each day. Parties should note their allocated time and keep the schedule. Virtual hearings will continue, with limited physical hearings as necessary as advised by the court,” said the Judiciary.

Use of technology

On March 16, Chief Justice David Maraga suspended key operations as part of measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus after the country registered the first few virus cases.

He suspended the hearing of civil and criminal cases, soon after the government banned public gatherings and meetings. 

The CJ encouraged the use of technology in court sessions.

 “This does not mean that the courts have closed as some would want to claim, court operations will never be closed,” he said, adding that allowing court room interactions would jeopardise the fight against Covid-19 pandemic and endanger the public. 

Maraga said the courts were potential hotspots for the spread of the deadly virus if they were left to operate normally, especially because of the  heavy human traffic at the facilities.

Key functions

In an internal memo sent to the President of the Court of Appeal, all principal judges, presiding judges, registrars and heads of stations, Maraga says members of the public will not be allowed entry into court premises.

 However, the CJ said, judicial officers would continue to go to work, but with no open court session. Key court functions such as plea taking of urgent criminal cases were taking place.

Police officers were also urged to release minor offenders on bond or bail as long as they presented the suspects in court within 24 hours.

 Maraga had said all pleadings would be filed and served electronically and judgment will be delivered via video conferencing or via email.

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