Hundreds of litigants were on Monday stranded outside Milimani Law Courts where they protested a directive by the Acting Chief Justice (CJ) Philomena Mwilu to close courts.
The majority of the complaints — lawyers and accused persons — claimed that they were caught unawares by the directive for criminal cases to be heard virtually in wake of spiking Covid-19 cases.
Speaking to K24 Digital on Monday, March 29, some of the court users said that they learnt of the decision when they arrived at the court and found the gates closed with security personnel barring access to the premises.
The closure of Milimani Law Courts was announced on Sunday night, March 28, in a social media circular published on Judiciary’s account.
Acting CJ Mwilu ordered all courts, tribunals and registries in Nairobi, Machakos, Kiambu, Nakuru and Kajiado closed indefinitely.
“All matters requiring a hearing during the period under these guidelines shall be by way of virtual hearing,” said Acting CJ Mwilu.
Many of the litigants said that they don’t have access to television, radio, or even smartphones to access the information on the closure of the court.
However, Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi, who addressed the litigants, assured them that no warrants of arrest would be issued against accused persons for failure to attend court physically.
Andayi urged the court users to follow up their criminal cases virtually on links provided by the Judiciary.
For High Court matters, Andayi told litigants to follow-up with the High Court Registrar for further directions as the court is on vacation and is only handling urgent matters.
Judiciary staff, mainly judges and magistrates, go on vacation in April, August and December.
While away, each Division usually has a duty judge or magistrate to handle urgent matters.