It is said every cloud has a silver lining and indeed Covid 19 has revealed to us so. This is manifested in the way the pandemic has rapidly influenced the unlocking of technology and its potential, for utilization in the social -economic aspects of life.
The Judiciary is one of the sectors that has been positively impacted by the wave of technology that is driven by the Covid- 19 wind .With the ‘’new normal,’’ all an officer of the court needs to access court is a Computer, reliable internet connectivity and court link to clickand fix a date for a hearing, mention, deliver a ruling dispense with a matter, give orders and directions on matters and the list goes on.
Whereas the idea to fully harness technology in the judicial operations had been conceived long before the pandemic, its absorption gained momentum with the advent of the pandemic. Three weeks into the pandemic, the judiciaryvide a report by The National Council on administration of Justicedated 1StApril 2020 resolved to upscale justice delivery through increased use of technology to curb the spread of the virus. Two weeks later, the said Council announced further measures to be taken, which among them included directions advising advocates to adopt e-filing in the High Court Commercial and Tax Division as well as the Chief Magistrates Courts to greatly limit visits to courts. Judges were consequently advised to consider electronic delivery of rulings, where appropriate.
The above are among deliberate efforts taken by the Judiciary as a matter of necessity and which efforts revolved around the massive upscale in the use of technology. Whereas the speed at which this was rolled out was plausible, the same was spurred by the Pandemic. Put differently, the advent of Covid 19 simply served to remind us that the wave of change (to technology) which was long overdue, was and is indeed inevitable and when the Pandemic hit, we hadno option but to sail along.
The justice system had to then sail accordingly by fully embracing technology and allowing it to permeate the entire system and spread its tentacles into the registries: to minimize and possibly root- out cases of missing or misplaced files, to the law firms and court rooms to spur efficiency by reducing time spent on matters and generally help minimize extensively on corruption within the system.
Even with the many positives as aforesaid,the massive adoption of technology within the Judicial System was not without its fair share of challenges in its implementation and utilization, especially at the nascent stage.The main beingthe challenge of network connectivity that was characterized by breakdown in communication during court sessions hence the birth of phrases such as ‘’your honour I cannot hear you!yourhonour can you see me? I cannot see you!’’ Such is inevitably an integral part of the ‘’new normal of –the technology way”withbenefits of embracing this Covid 19-driven wind of change to technology in the judicial system far outweighing the challenges.
Incidental and immediate benefits to the effect include economic utilization of resources: labour, time, financein the judicial process. Put differently, technology in the justice system has helped to minimize on input and maximize on output. Yet there is more to the Covid 19 wind-driven technology: For instance the level of efficiency and expeditious progress of cases before courts on the electronic platform is a relatively positive experience in the justice system. Since the inception of online court sessions, a number of cases have been concluded and judgments delivered. Additionally, matters which will otherwise be gathering dust in court shelves are at an advanced stage whereas those that could not be filed due to distance barriers have mention dates courtesy of the e-filing filing system. The resultant benefit to this effect being improvement on efficiency in delivery of justice thereby breathing more life into the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and in particular Article 47 which advocates for expeditious resolution of cases, spurring economy with conclusion of Commercial cases within reasonable time and imbuingthe Judicial transformation Strategic Plan with the impetus to meet its goals and ultimately enable the judiciary to live up to its purpose and mission of optimal service delivery to Kenyans in respect to justice.
Therefore it is in the above respect and context that I have looked at the good in the bad situation; a reminder that indeed every cloud has a silver lining if only we can care to take notice.
Bonface Nyabuto Marube
Intern At : Gertrude Matata, Waithaka & Associates Advocates.