Communique of the judiciary’s heads of courts’ consultative meeting

WE, the heads of Superior Courts of Kenya representing the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Employment and Labour Relations Court, and the Environment and Land Court, participated in the Heads of Courts’ consultative meeting in Naivasha, from 18th to 21st February, 2024;

AFFIRMING the terms of Article 160(1) of the Constitution that the exercise of judicial authority shall be subject only to the Constitution and the law and the judiciary shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority;

APPRECIATING the need for regular engagement in meaningful dialogue, sharing insights, and collectively addressing the challenges that face the judiciary and the administration of justice;

MINDFUL that judicial authority is donated by the people of Kenya and should be exercised in a manner that serves the society and protects the Constitution;

AWARE that the Constitution protects the decisional autonomy of Judges, and recognizing the need for the judiciary to engage in constructive dialogue with other branches and Agencies of the Government to address and resolve challenges that arise in the administration of justice;

ACKNOWLEDGING that there are time sensitive matters that should be accorded priority in determination by the Courts;

CONSCIOUS of the current challenges hindering the timely hearing and determination of time sensitive matters;

RECOGNIZING the need to address these challenges through a multi-pronged approach including through regular consultative meetings and peer review mechanisms;

DESIROUS to establish and maintain an efficient case and judgment management system for public interest matters, enhance proactive actions to entrench integrity and accountability in the administration of justice, and the incorporation of technology to streamline service delivery;

DRAWING from the themes of introspection on procedural rules in public interest matters, the concept of matters of general public interest, active case and judgment management, fight against corruption, upholding the independence of the judiciary while harnessing inter-governmental collaboration, and leveraging on technology for excellence in service delivery;

WE now make the following resolutions:

a) Streamlining court processes

i. The superior courts will endeavour to accord priority to time sensitive cases to ensure their conclusion in a timeous manner whilst also respecting the principle that justice must be done to all irrespective of status.

ii. Recognizing the need to review and update the Constitution of Kenya (Protection of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) Practice and Procedure Rules 2013 to take into account contemporary developments and introduce timelines for various processes, the Hon. Chief Justice will take action to initiate the process of review to these Rules.

iii. The Hon. Chief Justice will endeavor to optimize the capacity of the Constitutional and Human Rights Division and the Judicial Review Division of the High Court once new Judges are recruited.

iv. To promote the general wellness of Judges and to ensure that judicial decisions are not personalized, the Hon. Chief Justice will endeavour to ensure regular rotation of Judges and ensure all Judges are accorded an opportunity of serving in stations and divisions that handle high numbers of public interest matters.

vi. The Principal Judge of the High Court in consultation with the Judges of the High Court will continue to undertake Rapid Results Initiatives involving the distribution of time sensitive matters in the Constitutional and Human Rights and Commercial Divisions to all High Court Judges using the innovative ‘Mahakama Popote’ model for expeditious disposal of disputes.

vii. As an exception to the first-in first-out practice at the Court of Appeal, the Court of Appeal will endeavor to fast track the hearing and determination of appeals relating to time sensitive matters.

viii. While recognising the great role played by the Small Claims court in transforming the landscape of determination of commercial disputes, we take note of emerging challenges facing the court. Efforts are being pursued to tackle these challenges and streamline the operations of the court.

b) Active case and judgment management

i. The superior courts will enhance docket management system to streamline case management.

ii. To ensure efficiency and to tackle the problem of delays in conclusion of cases, the superior courts will enforce the ‘no adjournment’ policy. Litigants and stakeholders in the justice sector are urged to embrace the ‘no adjournment’ policy as adjournments will be granted only in the most exceptional circumstances.

 iii. Call upon stakeholders in the justice sector to support and work with the judiciary in enhancing efforts geared at expeditious resolution of cases.

iv. The superior courts will continue to promote the uptake and use of alternative forms of dispute resolution.

v. The Court of Appeal will undertake a case audit of appeals/applications where the Court has granted stay of proceedings orders with a view to fast-track the hearing and determination of such pending appeals/applications.

vi. The High Court will undertake a Rapid Results Initiative to prepare Records of Appeal to enable fast tracking of criminal appeals at the Court of Appeal.

vii. The Office of the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary (CRJ) will streamline the process of transfer of staff with a view to ensuring that each court station is optimally staffed to support judicial processes including with adequate number of interpreters.

viii. Judges will give their input on the Peer Review Rules to enable their finalisation and operationalisation.

c) Fight against corruption, enhanced accountability and seamless service delivery

i. The judiciary abhors corruption in all its forms and is committed to promoting and enforcing the principle of zero-tolerance for corruption.

ii. The judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission shall continue to invest in agile and effective communication systems including regular updates on the processing of complaints to deal with real or perceived corruption in the judiciary.

 iii. The judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission shall continue to pursue an evidence-based approach in proactively dealing with corruption.

d) Upholding the independence of the judiciary while harnessing inter- governmental collaboration

i. Taking cognizance of continued threats to the independence of the judiciary through vilification and criticism of Judges, disobedience of court orders, and denial of adequate resources, we urge Kenyans to continue supporting the independence of the judiciary.

ii. All Kenyans, State and Public Officers, State Organs and Agencies are required to respect and obey court orders in recognition of the constitutional entrenchment of the rule of law and democracy as a national value and principle.

iii. The judiciary will collaborate and work with the other arms of Government in the spirit of interdependence and reciprocity. However, the other arms of Government must respect the independence of the judiciary.

iv. There shall be more interaction between the judiciary and other arms of Government to communicate the needs of the judiciary without interfering with the independence of the judiciary in the spirit of cooperative dialogue.

v. The Judicial function is a core constitutional mandate which should be adequately funded. The judiciary continues to face the challenge under-funding. Therefore, there is need for continued engagement with other actors and stakeholders to pursue constitutional and legal amendments to ringfence the budget of the judiciary and streamline the operations of the judiciary fund.

vi. There shall be a review of the Judicial Service Act and other statutes in order to clarify the mandate of the judiciary -vis-à-vis the Judicial Service Commission in alignment with the Constitution.

e) Use of technology in enhancing performance management

i. Appreciating the need to leverage on technology for efficiency, Heads of Court endorse the implementation of the judiciary data tracking dashboard to enable real-time monitoring of court activities, outputs, and trend analysis into the performance of courts to facilitate data-informed decision-making.

ii. To tackle the challenge of data integrity, Heads of Court endorse the enhancement of the capabilities of the Case Tracking System (CTS) including through the Automated Daily Court Reporting. The Directorate of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) is directed to sensitize Judges and Judicial officers on the enhanced capabilities of the CTS.

f) Heads of courts’ consultative meeting

i. Appreciating the need for regular engagement by the Heads of Court, we welcome the institutionalization of the Heads of Court Consultative Meeting as an annual event in the judiciary’s calendar.


Guest author The Platform Magazine