• A criminal case takes almost half the time at the High Court compared to the Court of Appeal
• CJ attributes slow performance at Court of Appeal to shortage of staff
Chief Justice David Maraga has expressed concern over the number of days it takes to conclude the same matter in different courts.
For example, it takes an average of 1,235 days – which is over three years – to dispose of criminal cases at the Court of Appeal but only 522 days, less than one-and-a-half years, at the High Court.
On civil matters, the trend is inverted.
It takes an average of 727 days – about two years – to conclude a civil matter at the Appellate Court and an average of 1,057 days (more than three years) at the High Court.
At the Employment and Labour Relations Court, cases take an average of 849 days while at the Environment and Land Court, they take 1,141 days.
“While all these are an improvement from last year, they are still not as good as they should be,” Maraga said.
He spoke during this year’s annual judges’ colloquium at Whitesands Beach Hotel in Mombasa on Monday.
The CJ said the best courts at dispensing justice swiftly are the magistrate’s courts, which take an average of 665 days to conclude both civil and criminal matters.
“There could be something they are doing that we could borrow from,” the CJ told the judges.
The Supreme Court president also expressed concern over the variation in performance in different courts.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court had the highest case clearance rate at 160 per cent followed by the High Court at 134 per cent.
The Supreme Court had a clearance rate of 93 per cent.
Maraga said the Supreme Court brought down the backlog by seven per cent, with no cases older than five years.
The Environment and Land Court had the highest change in backlog clearance, with the total number of old cases coming down by 19 per cent.
The Court of Appeal managed only 49 per cent, meaning the backlog has been building up.
“For the Court of Appeal this, of course, is attributable to the significant shortfall in staffing levels, a challenge that we recently addressed with the recruitment of 11 new judges,” Maraga said.
On individual court basis, some of the stations had extremely good performance.
The Milimani Civil Division, for example, had a case clearance rate of 583 per cent, leading to a 21 per cent reduction in the overall case backlog count.
Narok, on the other hand, had a paltry 38 per cent case clearance rate and a 106 per cent increase in the case backlog count.
Kiambu High Court had an overall productivity rate of 1,067, with that of Kapenguria being 64.
Case clearance rate is a percentage of resolved cases in a particular court in relation to the filed cases in the same court, while productivity rate refers to the total resolved cases divided by the number of judicial officers at the station.
“So you can see why, in relation to productivity, the difference between Kiambu’s rate of 1,067 and Kapenguria’s of 64 is a matter of great concern, particularly when the latter ended up with a slight increase in its backlog numbers,” Maraga said.
However, the CJ noted an overall improvement of about 86 per cent in case backlog clearance over the last year.
During last year’s colloquium, there were more than 110,000 cases that were more than five years old, with a pledge to clear them by the end of last year.
“As of June this year, the number of cases over five years old in all superior courts had dropped to 15,278.”
The Chief Justice attributed this to increased use of technology and service weeks where time was dedicated for certain cases.
He called on judges to jealously guard the judicial independence which he said comes with a lot of responsibility.
“This must be accounted for at all times in terms of strict adherence to the rule of law, efficiency and effectiveness in delivering justice."
This year’s colloquium was themed 'Balancing Judicial Independence and Accountability'.
Maraga said judges must be open to feedback.
“When some concerns are expressed regarding inconsistencies in the granting of bail and bond and in sentencing, for example, it is not always an attempt to question our exercise of discretion,” he said.
Edited by R.Wamochie