MANAGING DISRUPTION

CJ Maraga team sets up infrastructure for e-courts

Coronavirus has rendered courts virtually dysfunctional

In Summary
  • At least 85 per cent of about 140 court stations have been installed with basic ICT infrastructure and are connected to the internet.
  • The projects are meant to support the judiciary’s Electronic Case Management System to be rolled out soon.
A video conference court session at the Malindi Law Courts on Friday, March 20, 2020. /COURTESY
A video conference court session at the Malindi Law Courts on Friday, March 20, 2020. /COURTESY

The Judiciary has stepped up efforts to build infrastructure for e-courts to ensure no disruption due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Judiciary has been hit by restrictions on social distancing following the coronavirus outbreak and currently conducts cases in the open.

The Milimani High Court Commercial Division and magistrates' courts have been fitted with gadgets allowing the use of technology to conduct cases.

At least  85 per cent of ut 140 court stations have been installed with basic ICT infrastructure and are connected to the internet.

The Judiciary has also started installing data centres and works in partnership with other government agencies.

The court recording and transcription system is also live in six courtrooms in the Nairobi commercial courts.

Chief Registrar Ann Amadi told the Star on Monday that an additional 26 courtrooms are being installed with the devices.

“All Nairobi stations are expected to be linked to the digital platform once it is tested and approved,” the registrar said.

Various court stations in Nairobi will commence e-proceedings following the outcome of the pilot at the Milimani Commercial Division.

“All court stations around the country will then join in as we improve ICT infrastructure and implement power backup for reliability and availability of digital services,” Amadi said.

Last Friday, Malindi chief magistrate Julie Oseko and the prosecution team held live court proceedings with remandees and convicts through video conference.

The infrastructue development projects are meant to support the Judiciary’s Electronic Case Management System set to be rolled out soon.

Following the disruption by the coronavirus, the Judiciary has accelerated its digital strategy.

To signal the urgency, Chief Justice David Maraga published the rules that will guide the use of e-courts.

The Electronic Case Management Practice Directions 2020 says that cases will be lodged or filed in court by electronic means.

The ECMS will allow parties to exchange electronic versions of pleadings and statements as well as consider the use of electronic documents at trial.

It provides a platform for parties to create accounts through which they will exchange documents within the principles of confidentiality and privilege.

Courts will electronically transmit copies of rulings, judgments, directions orders or other documents using electronic means.

Filing fees will also be payable through electronic means and an electronic receipt generated and sent to the party’s accounts.

Cases of public interest have been affected by the orders of the National Council on Administration of Justice suspending hearings and pleadings for 30 days from March 16.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s pretrial in the Sh357 million garbage tender case was scheduled for March 18 but did not start.

Migori Governor Okoth Obado’s murder trial was supposed to start on March 16 but did not take off owing to Covid-19.

The trial of four police officers and a civilian charged with the killings of lawyer Willie Kimani and two others was also delayed.

The case against Fredrick Leliman, Stephen Cheburet, Sylvia Wanjiku and Leonard Maina Mwangi is at its final stages.

The prosecution was to give evidence from the second last witness but could not proceed on Monday as planned.

Former Treasury CS Henry Rotich’s Arror and Kimwarer dam case has also been delayed by the disruption.

The matter against Kenya Power managers in the faulty transformers case was also to proceed this week.

It is the same situation in the case against former Land Commission chairman Muhammad Swazuri.

The hearing of an application by former Sports CS Rashid Echesa for the return of vehicles in police custody could not take place.

Edited by Henry Makori