Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu is advocating for physical resumption of court sessions, albeit in conformity with Covid-19 restrictions, as one way of ensuring fair judgments in courts.
Mwilu regretted that the current arrangement has seen witnesses not being heard in most of the cases either physically or virtually, a problem she says has resulted in the unnecessary postponement of cases.
“Witnesses are not being heard in many of our court stations, physically or even virtually. On this, my friends, something has to be done. For how long shall we remain behind closed doors when everywhere else is open? I have no doubt myself that this requires our very serious collective consideration,” Mwilu said.
Physical court sessions are currently restricted to a limited number of people owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but Mwilu says it’s time to re-adjust the measures to ensure fair delivery of judgments and allow witnesses to physically appear in courts.
“The courts cannot be closed to physical hearings for much longer. Let’s give this our very serious thoughts. My vision for the judiciary is for the expeditious resolution of disputes with total integrity in all its elastic meaning,” Mwilu said.
Mwilu says with the case clearance rate at an average of 72 percent across the High Court, despite the best efforts from judges and judicial officers in the High Court, backlog of cases remains a major challenge. is
“ In the above referenced period, the case backlog for matters that are 5 year old and above has seen a 3.4 percent increase. Indeed, with a workload per judge of 1,064 cases against a current rate of about 180 matters per year per judge, it is clear that, despite our best efforts, this will only continue,” Mwilu said.
According to the Directorate of Planning and organizational Performance (DPOP) Half Year Case load Statistics Report FY 2020-21 covering the period 1st July 2020 to 31st December
2020, a total of 10,646 cases were filed against 7,713 cases resolved in that period.
As at June 2020, there were a total of 89,415 pending cases in the High Court; this increased to 92,530 pending cases as at December 2020.