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Independence of Judiciary tops agenda as CJ Koome convenes Judges’ meeting

Chief Justice Martha Koome has convened the inaugural Heads of Courts’ consultative meeting to discuss judicial independence, improved performance, enhanced accountability and seamless service delivery to Kenyans.

The meeting, which ends on Wednesday, comes at a critical moment for the Judiciary, after recent events put the role of judges in the eye of a public storm.

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In her remarks, the Chief Justice maintained that dialogue with other branches of government to resolve challenges in the administration of justice does not undermine judicial independence.

“We can engage in constructive conversations that enable the institution to perform its role optimally, while ensuring that we do not engage in discussions that dictate how the cases in court should be decided. That must always remain a no-go zone!”, CJ Koome emphasised.

She however said there was need to introspect over the manner in which courts handle cases that affect public interest and policy.

“Concerns mainly relate to the timelines for hearing and resolving cases involving time-sensitive government programmes, especially when ex-parte orders are issued and the hearing dates are set many months later,” CJ Koome explained.

The CJ said it was critical to ask whether the courts handle public interest cases in a way that respects judges’ decisional autonomy, while actively managing cases of public interest.

“It is important that we reflect on our rules of procedure, especially the Constitution of Kenya (Protection of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) Practice and Procedure Rules, 2013 and the Judicial Review Procedure Rules, and whether they facilitate speedy handling of time-sensitive public interest cases,” the Chief Justice told judges attending the meeting.

She said it was imperative to review the active case management practices to determine how to expedite the disposal of public interest cases.

CJ Koome reaffirmed that the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was mandated to deal with allegations of corruption adding that the JSC remained committed to strengthening investigative and complaints resolution processes.

She emphasised that Heads of Courts have a responsibility to motivate and inspire judges, judicial officers and staff under their administration to adhere to integrity.

“Where you notice any concerns about possible corruption, you are obliged to bring them to the attention of my office or the JSC,” she directed.

She urged rigorous efforts to enhance operational efficiency of the courts through the strategic utilisation of technology to streamline service delivery.

“This year will see a significant leap in leveraging technology as an enabler for the efficiency of our operations. Our e-filing initiative has progressed significantly and we are now set for a nationwide rollout across all court stations on March 11th, 2024.”

The Chief Justice explained that the courts will embrace technology to ensure the accurate and prompt transcription of court proceedings with the establishment of a pilot transcription centre.

“To further enhance our operational efficiency and transparency, we are introducing a ‘Tracking Dashboard’. This innovative tool will enable the Judiciary’s leadership and court leaders to monitor court activities and outputs in real-time, providing immediate insights and trend analysis into the performance of our courts and facilitating informed decision-making,” CJ Koome said.

She revealed that the introduction of new features such as the publication of rulings and judgments, along with Automated Daily Court Reporting, would address the discrepancies previously experienced in the Case Tracking System (CTS)

“These enhancements are pivotal in ensuring the reliability of our data, which is indispensable for informed policy-making and tracking the progress of our institutional development efforts.”

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