MISLEADING: Reports on CJ Martha Koome Hiking Court Fees Are Inaccurate

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    Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome
    File
  • An article by the Business Daily reporting that Kenyans, starting September 2021, will pay more than double for some court services after the Judiciary revised its fees, is misleading and has been clarified by Chief Justice Martha Karambu Koome. 

    The article dated Wednesday, September 8, titled - Kenyans face expensive justice as court fees rise - added that the Judiciary raised the cost of litigation after the review conducted by CJ Koome. 

    According to the publication, the new fees schedule published by Chief Justice Martha Koome, which took effect on September 1, comprised new charges for lodging of documents. Filing applications at the High Court, exclusive of criminal matters, were reported to have risen from Ksh750 to Ksh1,000. 

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    The article by the Business Daily dated Wednesday, September 8, 2021
    Daily Nation

    At the Environment and Lands Court, registration of arbitration awards related to disputes rose by Ksh7,850, from Ksh 2,250 to Ksh10,100. Court library membership and annual subscription were reported to have been raised from Ksh500 to Ksh1,000.

    It was further reported that a Ksh500 charge was introduced for notaries public annual renewal and that a fee of Ksh450 for filing a notice of appeal to the Court of Appeal was introduced at the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division, 

    A fee of Ksh1,500 was further reported to have been introduced for court collection fees on deposits and security for costs.

    For commercial and tax cases filed at the High Court, the CJ reportedly introduced a fee of Ksh1,550 for any appeal or review from subordinate courts and tribunals. Listed in the article was also a new Ksh100 for filing of response for income tax appeals - statement of facts.

    Other new reported fee increments were, Ksh2,000 for an unliquidated claim, originating summons, or counterclaim, Ksh300 for filing of a response to the bill of costs.

    Koome was reported to have retained fees for applications and affidavits at the Magistrates court at Ksh1,000, the application fee for filing applications on criminal matters at the High Court at Ksh500, fees for instituting a private prosecution at the High Court at Ksh5,000

    Filing of criminal matters at the lower court was reported to have been set at Ksh485 and fees for instituting a private prosecution at the lower court at Ksh1,485.

    An article by the Daily Nation, dated Wednesday, September 8, titled - Expensive justice: CJ Martha Koome introduces higher court fees - reported that the new fees were introduced after the Treasury widened the Judiciary's financial resource gap, cutting its budget from Ksh18.1 billion in the last financial year to Ksh17.9 billion.

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    The article by the Business Daily dated Wednesday, September 8, 2021
    Daily Nation

    “The judiciary electronic case filing system has since been updated to reflect the new charges but lawyers are complaining that figures on the system are erroneous while some entries are missing.    

    Some members of the legal fraternity have also raised concerns over what they term as steep charges for filing some matters and documents. With the e-filing system, litigants and lawyers are able to do a self-assessment of the costs incurred upon lodging of respective documents,” an excerpt of the article reads. 

    A summary of the reported increments was listed as follows; 

    Increments

    Court library membership and annual subscription

    Old fees Ksh500

    New fees Ksh1,000

    Any type of application at the High Court except on criminal matters.

    Old fees Ksh750

    New fees Sh1,500

    Registration of arbitration awards at the Environment and Lands Court.

    Old fees Ksh2,250

    New fees Ksh10,100.

    Newly introduced charges 

    • Notaries public annual renewal Ksh500
    • Certificate of urgency at the Environment and Lands Court Ksh2,250.
    • A notice of appeal to the court of appeal filed at the Economic Crimes division Ksh450
    • Court collection fees on deposits and security for costs Ksh1500.
    • On commercial and tax cases filed at the High Court, the CJ has introduced a fee of Ksh1,550 for
    • Any appeal or review at the High Court on commercial and tax cases from subordinate courts and tribunals. Ksh1550
    • Response for income tax appeals -statement of facts. Ksh100
    • Response to the bill of costs. Ksh300 unliquidated claim, originating summons or counterclaim Ksh2000.
    • Further court fees will be paid based on the amount awarded upon determination of the case.

    A similar article was published by Mahakamani News dated Wednesday, September 8, titled - Expensive Justice for Kenyans after Litigation fees Review, curating the article published by the Business Daily.  

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    The article by Mahakamani News dated Wednesday, September 8, 2021

    A statement by the Judiciary dated, Thursday, September 9, detailed that the CJ clarified that the courts were migrating to e-filing, which would in fact make it inexpensive to file cases

    The CJ, who spoke on the Situation Room at Spice FM on Thursday morning, September 9, stated that “It’s going to be cheaper as you won’t make separate payments for the documents you file.

    “There was misreporting on this issue that we have increased court fees. Court fees are not in the realm of the Chief Justice. It’s a matter done by a dedicated committee of the Law Society of Kenya and the Judiciary and it was rationalized.” 

    She pointed out that the new court fee schedule has consolidated the fees for various services, subsequent pleadings, documents and proceedings that were previously charged separately.

    According to the statement, information from the Judiciary indicates that the new schedule was proposed to provide a streamlined, comprehensive and simplified regime of assessing court fees. 

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    The statement issued by the Judiciary dated, Thursday, September 9, 2021

    Koome noted that the Chief Registrar of the Judiciary constituted a court fee assessment committee to review the existing legal framework which made recommendations to ensure efficient and effective collection of revenues.

    The development of the new court fees schedule, according to the Judiciary, involved an extensive stakeholder consultative process.

    “The key stakeholders engaged included the Law Society of Kenya and the Court Users Committees. The general public was also engaged by a publication of the proposed court fee schedule in an advertisement carried in the newspapers in August 2020,” the Judiciary clarified.

    The new court fees schedule subsequently published in July 2021 consolidated the fees to enhance access to justice as court users will easily access information on the fees payable for different services, as explained by the press release. 

    “It has facilitated online assessment of court fees and filing of court documents as the Judiciary advances its efforts to automate its processes and procedures. The new court fee schedule has been configured into the Judiciary e-filing system, a platform which is currently in use for online filing of court documents.”

    The Judiciary added that the new court fees schedule enhances access to justice for the most vulnerable members of society by waiving court fees in respect to cases involving children.

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    The statement issued by the Judiciary dated, Thursday, September 9, 2021

    “All pleadings and documents lodged by those in prison are also free. The members of the public who are unable to pay court filing fees have an opportunity to file an application to sue as a pauper free of charge,” the statement added. 

    The Judiciary further highlighted that to enhance the business environment and improve the ease of doing business in Kenya, the new court fee schedule gives effect to a waiver of court fees in respect to commercial disputes where the value of the suit does not exceed Ksh1 million.

    “In respect to cases involving land at the Environment and Land Court, the fees for filing of unliquidated claims have significantly reduced from a sum of Ksh70,000 for general damages and Ksh1,500 per prayer sought for to a minimum figure of Ksh2,000.

    “The Constitution obligates the Judiciary to promote alternative dispute resolution especially mediation and the new court fees schedule waives fees for the filing of consents and withdrawal of suits in all courts across the country,” the statement explained. 

    Therefore, reports claiming that the Judiciary has increased or doubled fees for filing cases are inaccurate.

    This fact-check was produced by Kenyans.co.ke's John Mbati in partnership with Code for Africa with support from Deutsche Welle Akademie.