Chief Justice Maraga puts off civil cases hearing
George Kebaso @Morarak
The Judiciary has temporarily suspended the hearing of civil cases across the country effective today as the reality of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) hit closer home since last Friday when the country recorded the first case.
During this period, the National Council for Administration of Justice (NCAJ) headed by Chief Justice David Maraga, said prisoners and remandees will not be presented to court.
“In compliance with the directive issued by the National Emergency and Response Committee, we shall forthwith scale down court activities throughout the country over the next two weeks effective tomorrow, March 16, 2020 in order to allow further consultations and design appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the virus,” Maraga said yesterday at the Supreme Court of Kenya after a closed-door meeting that lasted four hours with members of the council.
Regarding new arrests, he said all cases, except serious ones, will be dealt with at the police stations in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Inspector General of Police, Hilary Mutyambai.
“We have agreed to suspend all hearings and mentions of all civil cases in all courts, along with all execution proceedings,” said the CJ.
“Courts will continue to handle cases of emergencies under certificates of urgency, and taking pleas in serious cases that are criminal in nature,” he added.
The disaster team on Friday came up with a raft of proposals to combat the virus that has claimed over 5,200 people globally. The measures included a call to Kenyans to avoid mass gatherings, greetings, body touch, and non-essential travel.
Traders have also been asked not to increase prices of basic commodities.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe has also advised wananchi to observe basic hygiene and hand sanitation in markets, matatus, churches and any other places frequented by many people as a precautionary measure.
Judges will, in the meantime, Maraga said, review deserving cases identified by prison authorities and issue appropriate revision orders in an effort to de-congest the prisons.
This is likely to let off the hook petty offenders, most of them, who are unable to clear fines.
“Magistrate courts will also review bail terms for those in remand,” Maraga stated.
However, all judicial officers and staff are required to continue reporting on duty though no open court appearances will take place.
The NCAJ - which comprises of members of the Judiciary, correctional services, the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions, and Directorate of Criminal Investigations – also announced suspension of all conferences, workshops, colloquia and training programmes until further notice.
“There will be no foreign travel for the next 30 days for staff of the justice sector institutions, whether official or private, save for exceptional circumstances,” Maraga said, and announced the creation of an ad-hoc Inter-Agency Committee that will liaise with the national committee and advise NCAJ on further precautionary measures on an ongoing basis.