Feature Stories

The power of solar in delivering justice

Solar Panels mounted on the roof

In the last couple of years, the Kilungu Law Court had been facing frequent power outages which caused delays in delivery of services. Proceedings in Court were affected as appellants who required typed court records for appeal purposes were not available on time. Court rooms, registries, offices and cells were frequently plunged into darkness.

Further, the court was also forced to outsource typing services at a cyber café at the nearest market place. Litigants experienced delays in the processing of fines and refunds owing to lack of access to online banking services. This made the court seem to be inefficient in providing services to the people.

The Court Users Committee (CUC) of Kilungu Law Court felt that it is their responsibility to ensure that all citizens who are looking for services at the courts are provided with prompt and quality services. The CUC’s installed a 250W Solar Panels to improve efficiency in the delivery of services at the Courts.

The Head of Station, Senior Resident Magistrate (SRM), Hon. Patrick Wambugu, acknowledges that since the solar panels were installed the court has been operating optimally.

“There is no backlog of cases; the Daily Court Returns Template (DCRT) are filled on a daily basis and submitted as required on or before the due date; payment vouchers that used to take one month to prepare are done promptly and reconciliation and surrender of revenue is done daily.” Hon Wambugu explained.

 

 

This has created more time for judicial officers and staff to engage on other official duties. Litigants would even get their statements photocopied at the station. Majority of litigants and other court users are pleased with the efficiency and prompt services that are accorded to them. The court rooms, chambers cells and registries are no longer in darkness.

During a tour of the court, the World Bank Task Team Leader for the Judicial Performance Improvement Project (JPIP), Nicholas Menzies, noted that a lot has been achieved since the establishment of JPIP and it has greatly added value to the delivery of service by the Judiciary.

“I think the Judiciary as a whole has made strides over the last five years with support from JPIP. There is always a new initiative being undertaken,” says Mr Menzies.

He is impressed that most of the Court Users Committees who received the small grants by JPIP have undertaken projects which are benefiting court users and the Judiciary in delivering justice.

“They have utilized the funds prudently and effectively in enhancing performance and services to the people.” He said.

Kilungu Law Court is located on the hilly parts of the County where the temperatures can range between 20.2° to 24.6°C. Some of the reasons for the frequent power outages in the area is the constant power rationing; frequent blowing up of the transformers which takes a very long period to replace; and the overhead lines touching one another caused by the strong winds in the area.

With frequent power outages, prompt services were hard to come by giving the impression of inefficiency, laxity and bad corporate image of the Judiciary. Litigants who would have travelled as far as from 60 km would be forced to travel back receiving no services at all. With a grant of Sh165,000, the Kilungu CUC installed the Solar Panels and procured a printer enabling the court to deliver timely and efficient services to its clients.

A judicial staff indicated that there is timely management of station communication through the internet services.

 “We are able to access the station email anytime and correspondences are responded to without delay. This has enabled communication to flow smoothly.”

The officer also indicated that previously they had to wait for power to resume so as to type and update the cause list, fill succession forms and place court orders in the website.

“This would be an inconvenience to both the court users, litigants and even judicial officers but with the solar panel, it has been effective, ensuring that no delays both in typing and updating.”

In today’s fast-moving economy, the use of electricity to drive quality service has become an important element in communication and day-to-day operations of Government institutions. Disparities in electricity connectivity and frequent power outages can hamper productivity of an institution. The Court Users Committee at Kilungu Law Court saw the importance of placing solar panels at the court to ensure that justice is not denied nor delayed due to power outages. The Kilungu Law Court is now operating efficiently in the administration of justice to the people of Kilungu.

Last year, JPIP supported 78 CUCs with small grants amounting to Sh31 million geared towards improving links to court users and potential users. CUCs are established under the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) that brings together actors in the administration of justice to address problems within the justice sector. They serve to promote accountability and improve performances by the courts. Some of the activities that were conducted by the 78 CUCs are construction of holding cells, waiting bays, procurement of computers; outreach programmes and public barazas, sensitization workshops, prisons and children home visits, transport expenses for witnesses and Legal Aid clinics just to mention a few.

 

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