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Court case deferred after magistrate runs out of fuel in town

Fuel attendant refiling a vehicle [Elvis Ogina.Standard]

Operations in some court stations in Nyanza have been paralysed following the prolonged fuel shortage crisis that has hampered the movement of judicial officers.

Senior court officials including some magistrates have now been forced to adjourn court sittings and asked parties involved in the cases to seek new dates.

This comes as a member of the Law Society of Kenya petitioned the Competition Authority of Kenya to investigate unfair trade practices by oil marketing companies which he claims has worsened the crisis.

The petition by Omwanza Ombati seeks to ensure that consumer rights is protected in the wake of the ongoing crisis that has brought almost all sectors to their knees.

In Kisumu, however, operations in some courts have been grossly affected by the fuel shortage with some cases adjourned after magistrates failed to travel over lack of fuel.

Some lawyers also claimed they were unable to travel with their clients to attend court physically as a result of lack of fuel and claimed the development is now a major barrier to justice.

Motorists in Nakuru queue for fuel at Shell petrol station in Section 58 on April 12, 2022. Harun Wathari, Standard]

At the Maseno Law Courts, court officials confirmed some of the cases have now been adjourned because of the difficulty in travelling, orchestrated by the lack of fuel.

At the stations, a number of cases that had been lined up for mentioning and hearing were adjourned and all parties involved advised to take new dates at the court registry.

A magistrate who was supposed to handle cases remained stranded in Kisumu town.

A senior court official who asked not to be named told The Standard that a majority of the court officials stayed in Kisumu and travel to the court every morning.

“They normally use their personal cars to attend courts. Some of them were unable to make it to court in time while others failed to appear completely because of lack of fuel,” said the official.

Following the developments, the court sent a message to advocates and litigants and asked them to select new dates for the cases.

“Kindly take note that due to the fuel crisis experienced within this region, trial magistrate is stranded in Kisumu hence unable to be in office in time. You are therefore advised to take new dates from our civil registry,” read one of the messages in part.

A number of lawyers told The Standard that the developments have affected their operations and appealed to the government to address the problem as soon as possible.

LSK chairperson Kisumu chapter Joan Neto confirmed the crisis that has now affected operations in courts and claimed that most of their members have been affected.

“It is unfortunate what is happening. Some of the court officers cannot travel because of the difficulty in getting fuel,” she said.

She noted that some of the cases had to be pushed forward because witnesses and advocates cannot travel.

Her comments were echoed by Byron Menezes, LSK upcountry representative who termed the development as unfortunate and a barrier to access to justice.

"The issue may worsen case backlog," said Menezes.

Related Topics

Fuel Crisis Nyanza