Judiciary mulls resumption of physical hearings in 5 counties

Judiciary mulls resumption of physical hearings in 5 counties
File image of the Judiciary. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Judiciary is considering resuming physical hearings in five counties that were originally put under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu instructed all Presiding Judges, Heads of Stations/Divisions, and Chairs of Tribunals in the zoned counties to hold urgent consultations with their Bar-Bench and Court Users Committees on how hearings can resume safely, according to a statement released on Sunday.

“The sittings will be required to deliberate and come up with a contextual understanding on the extent to which physical hearings can safely resume within their jurisdictions,” Justice Mwilu said “The reports therefrom should be submitted to my office, copied to the respective principal and presiding judges of the court and the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, by 12th May 2021,”

The latest comes after advocates complained that access to tribunals and courts has become exceedingly difficult as a result of the lockdown.

At the same time, Kenya’s judiciary has issued a warning to Kenyans to be vigilant, especially in light of emerging COVID-19 variants that could sabotage containment efforts.

“We reiterate what the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Hon. Mutahi Kagwe, EGH stated in his address to the nation the other day – that in the face of this pandemic, it cannot be business as usual; that there are new variants emerging that require us, even in the face of the apparent relaxation of restrictions, to remain extremely vigilant,” Justice Mwilu added.

In accordance with a government directive on movement cessation, the judiciary had halted all physical hearings and contacts within the courts in the five zoned counties.

The Judiciary issued a statement ordering that all court sessions in these counties be held virtually.

Following a decline in COVID-19 infections, President Kenyatta lifted the travel ban in and out of Nairobi and four other counties on May 1.

The hours of curfew were also adjusted.

The new directives also saw the reopening of restaurants, bars, and places of worship in the aforementioned counties, although under Ministry of Health guidelines.

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