The launch of e-filling in Mombasa County

  1. I am excited to join you for this momentous occasion. The launch of e-filling in Mombasa County (Mombasa, Tononoka and Shanzu Court stations) marks yet another significant milestone in the Kenyan Judiciary’s automation and digitization agenda, as we continue to leverage technology to drive our quest for efficiency in our processes and in the delivery of justice.    
  2. Tracing the journey of e-filling in the Kenyan judiciary starts with the launch of e-filling in Nairobi in June 2020 after many previous false starts and initiatives that did not pick up. Since the advent of the Covid pandemic, we have seen impressive strides with respect to the successful uptake, and operation of e-filing in Nairobi County and its environs. Subsequently, during the 2022 election cycle, the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT) and the Election Courts also had election petitions filed electronically throughout the country.
  3. The Nairobi experience and the experience from the 2022 election dispute resolution process have shown us that technology can be a powerful tool in the administration of justice, and we are now ready to extend the same benefits to the rest of the county in all disputes starting with Mombasa County.
  4. The journey to this point has been a long and challenging one, marked by the inevitable hurdles and setbacks that accompany any ambitious reform agenda. Yet, through the tireless efforts of our dedicated ICT team from the Judiciary’s Directorate of ICT and the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) Committee, the unwavering support of our partners and stakeholders, we have persevered in our pursuit of a more efficient and effective justice system.
  5. Ladies and Gentlemen, Today’s launch represents not only the expansion of our e-filing system but also the deepening of our commitment to innovation and progress within the Kenyan Judiciary. We have already witnessed the transformative impact of virtual courts on access to justice. Virtual hearings have been a sensational success albeit with some teething problems. I often get messages appreciating and marveling at how things have changed in the post-pandemic era. Advocates are able to attend to matters before Milimani, Mombasa, Malindi and Kisumu Law Courts all in the same day without leaving the comfort of their chambers in Nairobi. Witnesses are able to testify before a Magistrates court in Malindi or Voi without travelling from their workplaces in Spain or the United Kingdom. The transformation brought by virtual hearings is markedly evident in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal which are now fully Virtual Courts except in matters of public interest where the two Courts hold physical hearings.
  6. No doubt there remain challenges to the optimal performance of our Virtual Courts with regard to the concerns around the functionality of our systems and stability of the internet and other teething problems. Nonetheless, I want to use this opportunity to assure Litigants and the Bar that we are actively working on ways to resolve these problems.
  7. The other aspect of technology that is driving our quest for excellence is the Case Tracking System (CTS). The CTS enables us to track the entire details of a case from initiation to disposition. The CTS has automated registry operations that includes processes like case registration, fee assessment, cause list preparation, court orders generation and performance reports. The CTS has been progressively rolled out and operationalized across all courts and tribunals. A total of 2,133,675 cases had been captured, as at the end of the last Financial year, with 93 per cent of all court stations utilizing this system.
  8. The CTS has had a tremendous impact on the management of court processes at the registries. It has enabled the tracking and managing court cases in real time including file perusal, assessment and payment of court fees. It has also enabled the decongestion of court registries as most services are accessed online.
  9. The next frontier, which is work in progress, is enhancing our Court Recording and Transcription System (CRTS) through which we aim to achieve full audio and video recording of court proceedings and ultimately quality transcription. This will greatly expedite the dispensation of justice as we will eliminate the slow court processes attributed to long-hand recording of proceedings by judges and judicial officers. We currently have 54 courtrooms already installed with this technology.
  10. We are also scaling up our Video Conferencing System with the aim of enhancing court processes by facilitating remote trials irrespective of the geographical location of parties. We have 84 court rooms installed with the video conferencing system.
  11. The Judiciary continues to enhance the quality and reach of internet connectivity across all court stations. Under the ongoing Google connectivity project, all court stations will be connected to the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI), which will provide backup internet service. On its part, the Court LAN project aims at the installation of Local Area Network (LAN) in in 110 law courts.
  12. Lastly, under the AJIRA digital programme, we are undertaking a transcription process that has cumulatively delivered 154,451 legal transcripts that cover 126 court stations. This has improved timeliness through supported transcription of proceedings.
  13. We are therefore excited about the potential of rolling out e-filing country-wide, starting here in Mombasa. The roll-out of e-filling is part of the wider package of interventions geared towards leveraging on technology to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of our processes.  
  14. The e-filing system is designed to streamline the process of filing of cases and pleadings, track the case, and improve the overall experience for litigants and legal practitioners alike. With the launch of this e-filing system in Mombasa county, we are embracing the principles of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness, which are fundamental to the rule of law and the administration of justice.  
  15. We recognize that the success of this initiative hinges on the active participation of all stakeholders in the justice chain. I am therefore delighted to announce that our e-filing system has been integrated with the Uadilifu e-system operated by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). This interoperability of systems serves to enhance collaboration and coordination among key justice actors, ultimately resulting in a more seamless and efficient experience for all users.
  16. At the NCAJ, we are working to scale up the interconnectivity of systems across all the justice sector agencies. In this respect, an NCAJ Working Committee on ICT, chaired by Hon. Justice Isaac Lenaola, has been appointed and is already working on interconnectivity of systems as a priority project for the justice sector.
  17. Ladies and Gentlemen, As we embark on this new chapter, I would like to take a moment to ask us to reflect on the fact that the ultimate success of e-filing, and indeed, our broader digitization and automation efforts, will depend on the buy-in and active participation of all stakeholders in the justice system.
  18. To our Honourable Judges, Judicial Officers, and Judicial staff, I urge you to embrace this new technology and the opportunities it presents for greater efficiency, productivity, and service delivery.
  19. To the legal practitioners and litigants, I encourage you to familiarize yourselves with the e-filing system and to use it to its fullest potential. By doing so, you will not only contribute to the improvement of our justice system but also reap the benefits of a more accessible, user-friendly, and efficient platform for the resolution of disputes.
  20. To our sister Justice Sector agencies, including the Attorney General’s Chambers, the ODPP, the Police, the Prisons, Probation and Aftercare Services, Children’s Department, amongst others, I am certain we will continue with the positive trajectory of working closely as we strive to realise the goal of ensuring that the e-filing system is fully integrated and operational within all our institutions. By harnessing the power of technology, we can work together to deliver justice more effectively and expeditiously to the citizens of Kenya.
  21. Ladies and Gentlemen, I know there are concerns related to potential of ‘digital exclusion’ given the reality of unequal access to technologies and lack of knowledge or ability to use the technologies by sections of court users. The common manifestation of the digital divide is in the lack of access to the Internet, but it is also deemed to include the inequalities in access to a computer or other ICT related devices.
  22. Under our strategic vision, ‘Social Transformation through Access to Justice (STAJ)’, we are embracing a User-Centric and Rights-Based approach to the use of technology by the Judiciary. We are directing our efforts at tackling concerns relating to the potential of digital exclusion in access to justice.
  23. Some of the innovations and strategies that the Judiciary is rolling out to mitigate the potential of digital exclusion include:
  24. The use of Judiciary dedicated desks and spaces at Huduma Centers to facilitate access to internet for e-filling and virtual courts for those litigants without access to computers or smartphones to enable them get assisted by court assigned staff to access judicial services.
  25. We plan to establish e-filling & CTS support centre in all Courts.
  26. Ladies and Gentlemen, As we launch the e-filing system in Mombasa County, let us remember that this is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to create a justice system that is responsive to the needs of the Kenyan people, one that upholds the rule of law, promotes fairness, and safeguards the rights and freedoms of all citizens. The e-filing system is just one component of this larger vision, and its success will be measured not only by its technical capabilities but also by its impact on the lives of those who seek justice through our courts.
  27. This is why in the Judiciary we are now speaking the language of “social transformation”. Let us exploit the opportunities brought by this e-filling towards ensuring that that we access justice that contributes to social harmony in our communities and serves as an enabler for each one of us, as individuals and communities, to pursue and realise our potential and capabilities.
  28. As we move forward, let us be guided by the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and determination that has brought us this far. We must continue to engage with and learn from one another, to identify challenges and develop solutions, and to adapt and evolve as the needs of our justice system and our society change.
  29. In conclusion, I wish to reiterate my deepest appreciation to all those who have contributed to the development and implementation of the e-filing system in Mombasa County. It is through your collective efforts that we have reached this important milestone in our digitization and automation journey.
  30. As we celebrate this achievement, let us also reaffirm our commitment to working together to build a more efficient, effective, and inclusive justice system for the people of Kenya. May the launch of the e-filing system in Mombasa County mark the beginning of a new era of progress and transformation in the administration of justice in this region and our beloved country.
  31. With those remarks, it is now my distinct pleasure and honour to declare the e-filling system in Mombasa officially launched.

Thank you, and God bless you all.

Hon. Justice Martha Koome, EGH is the Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya

Guest author The Platform Magazine