Covid-19: Normalcy on horizon as courts upscale operations
By Japheth Ogila
| June 15th 2020
The Judiciary has begun the journey towards normalcy after courts resumed operations under strict observance of Covid-19 safety guidelines on Monday.
This is in adherence to a communique which was issued by the Judiciary on Saturday, June 13, stating the intention to upscale the operations of the courts.
“In line with the directions of the Chief Justice the courts and the tribunals will scale up the operations from June 15, 2020 (today)…We shall therefore continually enhance our service delivery in strict adherence to the Ministry of Health Covid-19 Protocols,” read the statement in part.
In the statement was a raft of procedures to be considered by the courts while prosecuting cases. It revealed that the number of those entering courtrooms would be limited to enhance the observance of social distancing rules.
Also in line were protocols to be followed in choosing cases for prosecution starting with the ones which were disrupted by the Covid-19 outbreak.
“…priority would be given to cases whose hearings were affected by the scaling down of court operations on March 16, 2020. For civil cases, courts have contact details of parties and advocates…who are advised to wait to be contacted by the courts,” the statement read.
It said that the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions would summon those engaged in criminal cases to appear in court. It added that telephone and email contacts would continue to be used to facilitate communication, and that cause lists would be updated on the Judiciary or Kenya Law website.
Virtual hearings would continue to limit contacts and staggered hearing schedules would be used as well to limit contacts.
On Friday, before the Judiciary issued the communique, public Health officials presented their findings of the inspection of Nairobi Metropolitan area courts to the stakeholders. This was at a virtual meeting which was chaired by the High Court Principal Judge Lydia Achode, who was accompanied by other Principal judges and chief magistrates.
The meeting also involved the representatives from the Law Society of Kenya, Probation, Prosecution, Police, Nairobi Remand and Prisons who sanctioned the upscaling of operations.
The upscaling of operations comes nearly two months after Chief Justice David Maraga announced changes and downscaling of court operations to ease compliance with Covid-19 safety rules.
On March 18, 2020, changes, Maraga directed lawyers and judicial officers to operate using electronic means. He directed that the aggrieved parties in a dispute be exempted from serving suit papers physically in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19 disease.
The new rules allowed parties to serve documents using electronic mail and mobile messaging applications. In the gazette notice which was published by Chief Justice David Maraga, litigants seeking redress in civil, Judicial Review of even Constitutional petitions were to canvass their cases through written submission to be filed at the registries.
Video or teleconferencing would only be used by judges where necessary to dispose of any matter before the court.
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