Kenya has a critical shortage of Environment and Land Court Judges, resulting in a significant clog-up in the processing of land cases in many parts of the country, CJ David Maraga said today.
This is exacerbated by the fact that close to 80 per cent of civil litigation in the country involves land and succession issues.
He said the requirement by the 2010 Constitution for the creation of specialised courts had made the situation worse because High Court judges cannot be assigned Land and Environment duties.
“This is one of the issues Kenyans should reconsider should the opportunity to review the constitution arise. While I respect the spirit of the Constitution that created these special courts, the reality on the ground is that this is impeding service delivery because other High Court judges cannot hear land matters and yet these constitute the majority of litigation,” he said when he paid a courtesy on Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga today.
The CJ said he encounters endless requests for more ELC judges whenever he meets court users across the country.
“When court users ask for a Judge, what they mean is actually a Land and Environment Judge. I have had occasion to be told ‘thank you for bringing us a judge, but please take him away until you find one who can hear land matters,”’ he said.
In a subsequent meeting with members of the Law Society of Kenya, the CJ said that ideally, every county should have two ELC judges. However, budgetary constraints have impeded the hiring of the required personnel.
To alleviate the situation, some magistrates have been gazetted to hear land and environment matters up to a threshold of Sh5 million. However, this is still not meeting the demand.
The CJ urged Kenyans to make greater use of Court Annexed Mediation, which is being rolled out throughout the country, as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism rather than always resorting to courts.
“Succession cases should not always be dragged to court. These cases involve brothers and sisters and their disagreements are best handled through mediation so that they remain friends even after the case is over.” the CJ said.
Justice Maraga is on a tour of Nyeri and Nyandarua counties. Today, he inspected construction of courts in Nyeri town and Mukurweini. Tomorrow he will lay the foundation stone for the Ol Kalou High Court in Nyandarua County.