THE Secretary to the Judiciary, Dorcus Okalany, has revealed that over 110,000 cases are currently pending in the courts. Although there has been reduction in the cases backlog growth from 51% in 1997 to 4.7% in 2009, the backlog is still big.
According to Okalany, the Supreme Court has 61 pending cases, as a result of lack of quorum after two posts fell vacant. The imminent retirement of Justice George Kanyeihamba, this year, will further reduce the Supreme Court judges.
A total of 1,624 cases are pending in the Court of Appeal, 27,614 in the High Court and another 80,967 cases in the magistratesâ€™ courts.
This state of affairs is a matter of concern as it has serious implications for the administration of justice in the country.
It means, among other things, that many people remain on remand in prisons because their cases cannot be heard. As of this month, there were 15,910 remand prisoners out of a total population of 28,285 prisoners.
Thus the remand prisoners constitute over 50% of the total prison population. It is no secret that some prisoners have been on remand for up to five or more years!
The judiciary, no doubt, has taken some measures to deal with the cases backlog. For instance, a big number of suspects have pleaded guilty under a special arrangement. But it is clear that the judiciary is facing serious challenges, among them acute manpower shortages.
The Government, therefore, should provide more resources for recruitment of more judicial officers and infrastructural development. In many parts of the country, courts are non-existent.
The judiciary and the Judicial Service Commission must also do more to improve service delivery. For example, time management appears to be a major problem in many courts. There are complaints that in some areas, magistrates are never in court on time.
The Judicial Service Commission and the judiciary administration should put in place a mechanism of monitoring performance of magistrates and judges.