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Delays in cases blight Koome's one-year case determination pledge

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Chief Justice Martha Koome. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

The Judiciary has set a maximum of one year as the desirable timeline for the determination case from the date of filing.

But the delays that have slowed down the wheels of justice continue to make this promise harder to achieve as the Judiciary battles under funding and other challenges facing institutions in charge of law and order in the country.

“Consequently, any case that has surpassed one year from the date of filing is classified as backlog,” Chief Justice Martha Koome said in her State of the Judiciary Report last November.

The CJ noted that out of the 649,112 cases that were pending at the end of the year under review (20/2021), 375,671 cases had surpassed the one-year resolution timeline and consequently were classified as backlog.

The report notes that among those cases were 242,457 criminal cases and 114,540 civil cases. The report added that the pending cases rose by five per cent from 617,582 cases at the end of 2019/20 to 649,112 cases at the end of 2020/21 reports.

The bulk of pending cases were in magistrates’ courts at 512,454 cases, followed by High Court with 90,901 cases. The least pending cases were recorded at Supreme Court with 74 cases.

Justice Koome said in the past ten years, the Judiciary has maintained a solid cause of transformative reforms.

“Although the burden of increased caseload and the pressure upon the institution continues to rise, the leadership of the Judiciary is committed to supporting all judges, judicial officers, and staff to perform optimally and dispense justice expeditiously,” she said.

She said to improve the case clearance rates, the Judiciary has put in place measures such as a performance management rewards Scheme, and active case management reorientation and training, all geared towards enhancing performance, with an eye on resolving cases, which have been in courts for more than three years before trial courts and one year at the appellate courts.

“We are doing all we can and instituting targeted case reduction measures to ensure we progressively finalize and eliminate the phenomenon of case backlog that has been a challenge to our quest towards a responsive judicial system,” she said.

While launching his book in April, former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga revealed that when he took over the reins at the Judiciary, some cases had been pending in courts for more than 20 years, with some files missing or records incomplete.

"It was a mockery of the off-quoted legal adage that Justice delayed is justice denied, and we had taken decisive steps to right the situation. Civil cases in the court hold up a great amount of resources needed for economic growth. Clearing the backlog was not only serve the ends of justice but also free resources into the economy and deepen investor confidence,” Dr Mutunga said.

He said he made it a policy that once proceedings begin, cases will be heard back-to-back on a first filed, first heard basis and queuing of the cases will take away the incentive for corruption.