New era beckons as justice administration goes virtual

Ngong Law Court Resident Magistrate Simatwo Gillian (right) with Prosecutor Martins Magdalene during a virtual court proceeding. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Things have been really bad for the longest time and so we must celebrate positive tidings even if briefly as we brace ourselves for hard times.

The price of fuel came down, the shilling is strengthening and the Judiciary launched a transformative e-filing, data tracking, and cause list.

Chief Justice Martha Koome on March 11 launched e-filing of all cases countrywide thereby eliminating the need for printing of acres of pages of pleadings contributing to the saving of the environment. She directed that by July 1 this year, no court will entertain printed hard copies of pleadings.

She also unveiled a Data Tracking Dashboard to assist Judiciary leaders in monitoring case processing within courts from filing to their conclusion thereby enhancing transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the manner in which cases are handled.

Unveiling a new cause list portal to enable litigants and advocates to get information on cases listed for the day ended the need for law firms, advocates, and litigants to send their court clerks or to frantically look for cause lists a day before their matters are heard or mentioned, a previously tedious and frankly timewasting exercise, which could prove costly in case of delays.

Litigants, parties, and witnesses previously travelled long distances to attend court and if a court was bogged down by numerous mentions, cases were delayed and did not take off as scheduled necessitating them to remain in the locality and in the process incurring colossal sums of money unnecessarily.

By the way, why do courts waste so much time mentioning cases? Many cases remained pending for years resulting in a huge backlog of pending cases. We believe the online and virtual administration of justice heralds an era of expedited delivery of justice in Kenya.

It is expected that while introducing online and virtual administration of justice will not be without its challenges, it will certainly speed up the conclusion/determination of cases, enhance transparency, and bring the delivery of justice services closer to the people. We may not always love devolution but it has brought services closer to the people and helped them reduce exponentially the costs of traveling long distances to seek government services.

The online and virtual services of the Judiciary will complement devolved services in all counties. This is by all means transformational and a welcome initiative that deserves every support to succeed big time. The use of ICT by the Judiciary will also bring it to the cutting edge of technology and in tune with the future as artificial intelligence gains prominence in all aspects of our lives.

Furthermore, the leadership of the Judiciary will be able to monitor and track cases, provide necessary oversight, and ensure courts and judicial officers are supported and assisted promptly. It will also enhance accountability, and transparency and strengthen the rule of law while helping the Judiciary avoid pitfalls in real time. This is a great milestone and the Judiciary should be commended on it.

Doctors have threatened to down their tools for a variety of reasons including the government’s refusal to deploy interns after many years awaiting deployment. They are also protesting police brutality against their union officials while constitutionally protesting and picketing. In addition, private hospitals are threatening to end the treatment of NHIF card holders because the government has failed/refused to pay them outstanding debts in billions.

The IEBC is still not constituted as the constitutional timelines within which they the review and demarcation of electoral boundaries lapse. It appears like we are unconcerned about the unconstitutionality of doing government business. We are also busy justifying why we need to deploy our policemen and women to Haiti amidst concerns about their security and safety. As someone remarked, the government must know something we don’t because Haiti appears to the majority like a death trap for our police officers. The government is still forcing us to swallow bitter pills including social insurance health coverage, affordable housing and other hidden taxes that we can hardly afford.

Finally, a video clip doing rounds on social media about a cartel mining soil, packaging it, and supplying it to the National Cereals Board as fertilisers, if true, must be the worst manifestation of evil; those responsible must be prosecuted and sentenced to life imprisonment. There is no justification for such extreme acts of sabotage of the government’s fertiliser initiative.