Judges and magistrates protest against reopening of courts over health concerns

By Lenox Sengre On Mon, 20 Apr, 2020 11:57 | 2 mins read
Chief Justice David Maraga
Chief Justice David Maraga. PHOTO | COURTESY

Chief Justice David Maraga’s plan to reopen the courts has flown into a headwind after Kenyan judges and magistrates protested the move citing a myriad of health concerns.

In a letter to the National Council of Administration of Justice (NCAJ), the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association (KMJA) first noted it had not been consulted or included in the council making decisions on Judiciary affairs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CJ Maraga, who chairs NCAJ, had announced that court sessions will be done in open spaces starting Wednesday once the Ministry of Health gives it the greenlight.

But KMJA has strongly opposed the decision to reopen courts citing the need to prioritise the health of judicial workers.

“A majority of the judicial staff and some Judicial Officers use public means of transport to get to work. In this regard, there is likely to be a serious challenge of avoiding contact with people of unknown contact or travel history. A majority of our clients use public means of transport to get to work. At our place of work, the clients get into contact with the judicial staff. In turn, the judicial staff get into contact with Judges and Judicial Officers. This produces a snow-balling effect, just in case one of them is infected,” said KMJA secretary-general, Derrick Kuto.

The judicial workers’ association wants the status quo maintained as the world waits for a solution to the coronavirus disease that has already infected 270 people in Kenya and killed 14.

“For Kenya, there are many contacts being pursued and no one knows where and who they are. This calls for more caution,” said Mr Kuto.

Further, the association is uncomfortable with the Ministry of Health’s failure to roll out mass testing program with focus still on those showing symptoms and those who have been exposed.

Since the Judiciary scaled down operations after the announcement of the first Covid-19 case in Kenya, some courts have been issuing rulings and judgment online, using video conferencing and holding sessions in open spaces.

Advocates have had to file urgent matters online and waiting for rulings on the same platforms.

But the Ministry of Health officials visited the Milimani Law Courts on Monday, April 20, to inspect the facilities before issuing the greenlight for scaling up of operations.

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