JUSTICE DENIED

Lazy judges delaying court cases should be punished

Backlog of cases is a reflection on the lack of efficiency in the country’s justice system.

In Summary

• In recent months, several brave women have used dramatic demonstrations to take a stand against delayed justice.

• According to the 2017-18 State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Annual Report, the case backlog in courts, as of last June, stood at 327,928 cases.

Chief Justice David Maraga had said cases that have delayed in courts for more than five years will be resolved by the end of the year
Chief Justice David Maraga had said cases that have delayed in courts for more than five years will be resolved by the end of the year
Image: FILE

If we are as serious about our progress, then it must be reflected in our demands from the justice system. And it is time certain judges are held accountable for their incompetence and indifferent attitudes towards administering justice.

In recent months, several brave women have used dramatic demonstrations to take a stand against the shortcomings of this system. For example, 54-year-old Jacinta Nduta has been the victim of a land succession case for the past 15 years.

Several judges have handled her case as it fragged on, and in the process, her file mysteriously disappears each time she arrives in Nairobi.

She decided she had had enough. On July 17, Nduta began to wail and shout uncontrollably at the Milimani law courts after her case was adjourned for the umpteenth time. On her way down from the third floor, Nduta disturbed other legal proceedings. 

 

But rather than seeing this as a case of hysteria, we must take a deep look into what caused the breaking point.

In January of this year, a woman in Nakuru court stripped naked in protest as her case had delayed for10 years. Two months later, in March, a mother, who had also dealt with a land case for years abandoned her five children at the High Court in Machakos.

According to the 2017-18 State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Annual Report, the case backlog in courts, as of last June, stood at 327,928 cases. Twenty-two per cent of those cases have been dragging on in the courts for more than five years, and 55 per cent for between one and three years.

Such a significant backlog of cases is a reflection on the lack of efficiency in the country’s justice system. Chief Justice David Maraga recently released a memo demanding that judges arrive at court no later than 9 am and work on Fridays.

The fact that such a memo had to be issued should be a wake-up call to all government employees, especially those working in the legal system, that a fundamental change of attitude is long overdue.

These days, however, we are beginning to see high-ranking officials finally being held accountable for corruption and taking advantage of the system. For example, the recent arrest of CS Henry Rotich and other government notables is perhaps one of the most prominent cases in our nation’s history. This is the most public attestation to the anti-corruption campaign President Uhuru Kenyatta has been pushing.

It appears as though those in the justice system who take their leadership roles for granted are next. As it is, no one who takes advantage of their privilege as an official in the government is immune from reprobation.

I see the women who let the judges know they had enough as ideal models for emulation. Women must stick together to work towards the progress of our nation, rather than falling prey to divisive opportunists. 

 

The judicial system’s status quo is, however just one example of bottom-up changes that we need to unite behind to make real, palpable change. Cases that linger on for years without resolution sometimes rip families apart or cause the victims to live in poverty with no end in sight, while they wait to reclaim their land.

Others languish in prison even though they are innocent, while their cases progress too slow.

The root of productivity is the will to make positive changes. We cannot simply expect that Uhuru can successfully implement all of the changes that he is working on without each individual taking part in the process ourselves.

To those who currently suffer from the systems in place, why don’t we take a page out of Nduta’s book, and let our grievances be known? And to those in positions of authority, you have chosen to bear the onus of integrity and trustworthiness. Follow the President's leadership and step up to the plate. 

The author is Murang’a woman representative


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