CORONAVIRUS

Judiciary should start now handling civil cases online

The Judiciary has spent vast amounts on digitisation in recent years.

In Summary

• The courts went onto scaled down operations three weeks ago and judiciary staff started working from home

• On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard an LSK petition online through Zoom

A video conference court session at the Malindi Law Courts on Friday, March 20, 2020
A video conference court session at the Malindi Law Courts on Friday, March 20, 2020
Image: COURTESY

The president of the Law Society tweeted on Friday that "the Judiciary has let Kenyans down" after he found the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Chief Magistrates Court closed in Nairobi. He demanded that they be reopened immediately.

Havi has a point. On Thursday, Havi himself presented an LSK case about the curfew via Zoom to the Constitutional Court. It is technically possible in this digital age to handle legal matters online.

Three weeks ago Chief Justice David Maraga ordered the courts to scale down their work but the coronavirus will not disappear anytime soon. The country cannot afford for the courts to be in lockdown for the rest of the year.

Some urgent cases are still being handled by open-air courts and that is commendable. However, more cases could still be handled inside courtrooms if the public was excluded and all lawyers, judges and staff wore masks.

The Judiciary has spent vast amounts on digitisation in recent years. Let's now activate that. In civil cases, the parties can agree to hear cases online. This will have the added advantage that video testimony can be recorded in perpetuity.

And it is civil cases - property disputes, debt recovery, tax collection, etc - that keep the economy rolling. Judges can easily manage these cases online. Let the Judiciary start hearing civil commercial cases again.

Quote of the day: "Liberty is the power that we have over ourselves."

Hugo Grotius
The Dutch philosopher and jurist was born on April 10, 1583