By: MAZERA NDURYA
Several judges have been moved in a major reshuffle that has also seen the creation of new High Court stations in the country.
By Wednesday, affected judges at the Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi were clearing pending cases and referring ongoing ones to their respective presiding judges for reallocation to new judicial officers.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said in a statement that the changes take effect immediately after judges return from their August vacation.
Turkana, Marsabit, Kitui and West Pokot counties are among the new stations that will now have resident judges in a major expansion programme at the Judiciary.
Other new High Court stations are Baringo (Kabarnet), Tana River, Taita-Taveta, Laikipia, Nyamira, Siaya, Tharaka-Nithi, Migori, Kajiado and Bomet.
The new stations have been made possible after the employment of 14 new judges who were recently sworn in by President Uhuru Kenyatta after staying in the cold for more than one year since they were recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).
The Chief Justice was particularly concerned about the status of environment and land court, noting that so far there were only 15 ELC judges serving the whole country.
“This is certainly not enough given the volume of land litigation. Given the delayed swearing in of judges which took nearly two years has now been resolved, the JSC will be shortly hiring more ELC judges to address this shortfall which is contributing to delay in the hearing and determination of land matters in several parts of the country,” he said.
The CJ said in a statement on the establishment of new High Courts and posting of new High Court judges that the new judges will report to their new stations.
He said that between June and September, the new judges have been assigned duties to clear cases backlog as part of Justice@Last Initiative.
“To date 13,267 cases have been cleared against a target of 30, 000 in 10 stations with the highest number of case backlog in the country,” Dr Mutunga said.
Land Development and Governance Institute (LDGI) Chairman Ibrahim Mwathane has welcomed the new changes in the judiciary and singled out the creation of more environment and land cases in the counties.
A report by LDGI on assessment of performance of the environment and land court in Kenya showed that many Kenyans did not have access to such courts,
The situation has made it difficult for majority of Kenyans to access justice relating to land issues.
“This is a good move and we are asking the Judiciary not to relent in asking the Treasury for more money to recruit and train more judges to handle environment and land cases.
“We would also like to see the Judiciary invest in information technology to digitize court proceedings so as to speed up delivery of service,” said Mr Mwathane.
Most of the judges who have been affected by the mass transfers at Milimani Law Courts were referring most of their cases to their respective presiding judges for reallocation as the judges start their vacation from next Monday.
Dr Mutunga said that where stations hitherto serving several counties and therefore bearing huge caseloads have now been split by establishing new high court stations in several neighbouring counties