We, the members of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), continue with our efforts to find the optimal balance between keeping the justice system up and running while safeguarding the health of our staff as well as members of the public in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this regard, the NCAJ held a virtual meeting today attended by, among others, the Solicitor-General; the Director of Public Prosecutions; the Chief Executive Officer of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission; the Commissioner General of Prisons; the President of the Law Society of Kenya as well as three other LSK Council Members; and the Judiciary leadership aimed at finding ways of scaling up Court operations and further streamlining the overall activities of the Justice Sector.
The Council reviewed the current situation in the administration of justice and resolved the following:
- All suspects, irrespective of the nature of the offence, will be arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest unless otherwise released on bond or bail by the police stations where they are held;
- The hearing of criminal appeals by the High Court and the Court of Appeal shall be scaled up and proceed through modalities to be agreed upon by Judges seized of the appeals, the DPP, appellants and/or their Advocates as well as prison authorities. Where practicable, the appeals will be heard by video link and where facilities for video link are not available, in open court subject to compliance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health in combating Covid-19. The Judiciary shall put in place measures to ensure compliance with Ministry of Health guidelines on combating the spread of Covid-19 during the hearings;
- Operations and services in all registries shall be scaled up effective 21st April, 2020. The Chief Registrar of the Judiciary (CRJ) shall liaise with the Ministry of Health and Heads of Stations to ensure that adequate measures are in place for the protection of judicial staff and court users, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on combating Covid-19.
- Court registry supervisors shall report to the registries and there shall be a limited number of registry staff as shall be determined by stations to ensure compliance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on combating Covid-19.
- The hearing of civil matters shall be scaled up with effect from 22nd April, 2020. The sub-committee of the NCAJ that was appointed to review and recommend the justice sector responses will come up with guidelines on how the hearings and appeals shall be conducted in so far as courts in Nairobi are concerned. Presiding Judges and/or Heads of Stations outside Nairobi shall liaise with Courts Users Committees and come up with guidelines on how hearings and appeals within the Stations will be conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on combating Covid-19.
- The NCAJ Subcommittee shall in conjunction with the Heads of Divisions in Nairobi come up with guidelines on how matters which were taken out between 16th March, 2020 and 22nd April, 2020 will be dealt with.
- Presiding Judges and/or Heads of Stations outside Nairobi shall liaise with Court Users Committees and come up with guidelines on how civil matters which were taken out between 16th March, 2020 and 22nd April, 2020 will be dealt with.
- All pending judgements and rulings shall, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Health on combating Covid-19, henceforth be delivered in open court upon notice to litigants and or their Advocates.
- Orders shall be extracted by registries and released to litigants and/or their Advocates within twenty-four (24) hours of their making.
- The suspension of execution of civil orders and decrees and eviction orders made before 16th March, 2020, remains in force until 22nd April, 2020.
- The NCAJ shall meet on 21st April, 2020 to review the steps taken to implement the above resolutions.
HON. JUSTICE DAVID K. MARAGA, EGH,
CHIEF JUSTICE AND CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL
COUNCIL ON THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE