Economy

Concluded court cases dip 38pc on Covid disruption

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Chief Justice Martha Koome. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

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Summary

  • The number of resolved court cases fell 38 percent last year as Covid-19 disruptions affected the ability of judges to hear cases and give rulings on time leading to surge in case backlog.
  • The pandemic led to increased adjournments, absent litigants and scaling down of court operations denying Kenyans access to justice.

The number of resolved court cases fell 38 percent last year as Covid-19 disruptions affected the ability of judges to hear cases and give rulings on time leading to surge in case backlog.

Chief Justice Martha Koome said the number of cases concluded in all courts reduced from 469,359 cases in 2018/19 to 289,728 cases in 2019/20 after courts scaled back operations and shifted online to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic led to increased adjournments, absent litigants and scaling down of court operations denying Kenyans access to justice.

The delays in concluding cases has a negative effect, especially in commercial cases as they tie up billions of shillings in prolonged litigation.

According to the state of judiciary report, by June 2020 Milimani Commercial & Tax Division had the second highest number of pending court cases 7,497.

“The number of cases resolved in all courts reduced from 469,359 cases in 2018/19 to 289,728 cases in 2019/20. As a result of scaling down of court operations, performance of courts, administrative units and overall performance of the Judiciary was affected especially during the fourth quarter,” CJ Koome said in the Judiciary performance evaluation report.

Over the past three years courts have stepped up clearing backlog of cases which has seen a gradual growth in the number of resolved cases.

In the year 2018/19, 469,359 cases were resolved, an increase from 370,488 cases resolved in 2017/18.

Case clearance rate for the last three years shows an increase from 92 percent in 2017/18 to 97 percent in 2018/19.

However, last year case clearance rate dropped to 86 per cent leading to an increase in the backlog of cases to 359,347 from 337,403 the previous year.

Case backlog caused by delayed hearing and determination of disputes particularly commercial claims has affected the ease of doing business in Kenya.

This necessitated the establishment of Small Claims Court as one of the measures to clear backlogs by delegating claims bellow Sh1 million.

Small claims court's Registrar Stella Kanyiri said in just two months of establishing the court, it has heard and determined 1,200 cases with just five adjudicators and one court.