Chief Justice David Maraga says courts will remain closed amid sustained calls for them to re-open in what he says is part of Judiciary efforts to protect its staff and Kenyans from contracting Covid-19.
According to Maraga, the National Council on Administration of Justice has directed courts to continue hearing certain matters through technology in order to limit courtroom interactions.
Maraga says the council is upscaling the use of technology to ensure judgments on urgent matters are delivered to reduce the backlog of cases.
Courts which have been carrying open sittings setting, despite carrying on with major criminal offences are also expected to rule on minor offences within 24 hours.
“While it is prudent to upscale court activities, it will not be wise to have open court sessions at this time. We must, however, emphasize that this does not mean that the courts have closed down as some want to claim,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
Maraga noted that a number of judicial officers conduct their court sessions from their chambers, making it difficult to keep the required social distance recommended by the Ministry of Health.
Court activities involve an extensive exchange of paperwork from advocates, therefore, accelerating the spread risks.
The CJ, however, warned that court operations have never and will never be closed.
He left the decision on which cases to be heard remotely up to presiding judges, head of court stations and their respective stakeholders.
“Suspects in serious crimes shall continue to be presented to court for plea taking. On the other hand, the police shall continue to release minor offenders on bond or bail failure to which they must take all suspects to court within 24 hours,” he said.
Judges and heads of stations outside Nairobi have been asked to liaise with court users committees and come up with guidelines on how hearings and appeals will be conducted.
The decision by the council is said to have been informed by a joint letter in which, the three associations representing Judiciary staff, Kenya Judges Welfare Association, Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association and Kenya Judiciary Staff Association informed the Chief Justice that their wellbeing and health were paramount as the nation battles the effects of Covid-19.