Effects of Judiciary lockdown being felt

Chief Justice David Maraga addresses the media during the National Council on the administration of Justice press conference held at the Supreme Court on March 15, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Courts across the country remained deserted after a directive to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Activities at the Supreme Court and Milimani courts, which handle more than 60 per cent of all cases filed in Kenyan courts, were minimal following the directive by Chief Justice David Maraga. 

The partial lock-down has led the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) to file a case that intends to force the State to explain what it is doing to contain the virus.

Yesterday, LSK, through lawyer Dudley Ochiel, claimed the Ministry of Health has failed to prepare for scrutiny, a contingency plan on prevention, surveillance, control and response to the outbreak.

“The Judiciary has responded to the outbreak by closing down operations. That notwithstanding, this case is of public importance and should be heard immediately," said Mr Ochiel.

"We need a proper update on what the government is doing.”

Despite the announcement by Justice Maraga, several people turned up in various courts claiming they were not aware of the new directive.

A litigant who made an appearance yesterday at the Milimani courts said he did not believe the Judiciary lockdown that he learnt of through the media.

He said he decided to turn up for the hearing of his criminal case fearing that a warrant of arrest could be issued against him if he failed to show up.

“Those facing criminal cases should be told about the lockdown personally. Not all of us have access to media outlets,” he said.

The confusion forced Milimani Court Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi to assure litigants that no warrants of arrest will be issued for failure to turn up in court for the next one month.

“All mentions and hearings will be heard in a months’ time, depending on how the situation will be by that time,” said Andayi.