The Judiciary, under the leadership of Chief Justice Martha Koome is on a mission to widen the doors of justice across the country.
The CJ is encouraging multiple-door approaches to access justice. She has left her footprints in Mombasa, Kibra, Meru, Kisumu, Kiambu, Mandera and Maralal by launching specialised Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) courts, small claim courts, court annexed mediation, alternative sustice systems (AJS) and e-filing.
This demonstrates the Judiciary’s unwavering commitment to bringing the justice system closer to Kenyans. Specialised courts acknowledge that justice is not homogenous but instead must be tailored to meet the unique needs of different members of the Kenyan society, especially the most vulnerable.
In addition, these courts dismantle formal, informal and systemic barriers that prevent access to justice. Initiatives such as AJS embrace friendly processes for participants, effective deterrents to perpetrators, and restore relationships and heal the wounds of victims.
It is also more affordable, easier to access, familiar, and less bureaucratic. Due to its participatory nature, it ensures more social inclusion, prevents injustice and reduces harm suffered by people by focusing on root causes of injustice and on justice needs of entire communities and societies rather than just individuals.
The Head of the Judiciary is categorical that this sort of multi-door approach to justice broadens our perception of justice, is effective, conciliatory and efficient.
The e-filing system minimises infrastructural barriers that have been a hindrance in access to justice. The system will enable the Judiciary serve court users more efficiently. It allows citizens to access justice remotely because they do not have to physically visit the court premises to submit pleadings and legal documents.
This bridges the distance between litigants and courts and enhances access to justice. This system allows expeditious services and court users are encouraged to embrace it.
These initiatives also create collaborations and strong partnerships with our county governments. These will invariably address the infrastructural challenges hampering access to justice.
Social Transformation through Access to Justice (STAJ) entails envisioning the Judiciary’s role not only as an arbiter of law, but also as a facilitator of dialogue, a connector, and a promoter of social harmony.
The Judiciary must advance the social transformation promise of the Constitution and respond to the needs, expectations, and aspirations of all Kenyans, especially the vulnerable and marginalised groups.
For social justice to prevail, the Judiciary endeavours to put in place a people-centred justice system and therefore contribute to the creation of a just social order, promote peaceful co-existence in communities, and enable individuals and communities to flourish and realise their potential.
Thus, justice becomes not merely an end, but a journey - a transformative experience marked by fairness, impartiality, independence, respect and empathy.
The writer is an advocate and strategy advisor in the office of the Chief Justice
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