E-filling is the solution to efficient Judiciary
The launch of e-filing in Mombasa County (Mombasa, Tononoka and Shanzu Court stations) marks yet another significant milestone in the Kenyan Judiciary’s automation and digitisation agenda, as we continue to leverage technology to drive our quest for efficiency in our processes and in the delivery of justice.
Tracing the journey of e-filing in the Kenyan judiciary starts with the launch of e-filing in Nairobi in June 2020 after many previous false starts and initiatives that did not pick up. Since the advent of the Covid-19 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.
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.
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.
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 utilising this system.
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. We currently have 54 courtrooms already installed with this technology.
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.
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.
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. We are embracing the principles of transparency, accountability, and responsiveness, which are fundamental to the rule of law and the administration of justice.
We recognise 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.
To the legal practitioners and litigants, I encourage you to familiarise yourselves with the e-filing system and to use it to its fullest potential.
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.
I know there are concerns related to the 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.
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.
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.
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.
(This is an abridged version of the speech by Hon. Justice Koome, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya during the launch of e-filing for courts in Mombasa County)