Justice Koome: Courts groaning under the weight of land cases

Chief Justice Martha Koome [Chemtai Lochakapong, Standard]

At least 70 per cent of land cases in the country are still pending in Nairobi.

Chief Justice Martha Koome yesterday said that Environment and Lands Court (ELC) has 13,500 pending cases with Nairobi leading with 9,500. 

Lands court has nine fully-fledged registries in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kericho, Nyeri, Mombasa, Eldoret, Nakuru, Bungoma and Malindi.

In an illustration of how land is critical to Kenyans, she said at least 60 per cent of cases filed in courts are land-related.

Justice Koome said she expects judges to settle cases within three years and appeals should take one year. “Every Judge must take individual initiative to reduce backlog and ensure that we hear and determine cases in a timely manner. “You must reduce the number of adjournments and strive to resolve cases with fewer hearings. Always endeavour to make each case hearing date meaningful. You must discourage interlocutory applications and preliminary objections,” she said.

The ELC now has 51 judges following the latest appointments. At the same time, the CJ said 10 small claims courts will be opened.

Currently, the new court settling claims of less than Sh1 million is in Nairobi only.  

It emerged that for the period the court has been in operation (84 days), 1,222 cases were filed and 481 cases heard and determined.

“It is my hope that the new courts within Nairobi will be key in bringing justice to more Kenyans and further reduce the backlog at the chief magistrates’ commercial court and the criminal courts,” Koome said.

The judge has marked the first month in office. She pledged the courts would give priority to the conclusion of over 400 pending corruption cases seeking recovery of assets worth Sh11 billion.

The CJ stressed her intention to improve coordination of all agencies charged with administration of justice to improve efficiency.

“My vision for the Judiciary is that we should have courts of the 21st century that are independent, efficient, accessible and responsive to the aspirations of Kenyans and true guardians of the rule of the law,” she said.