Recently the Chief Justice of Kenya Hon Martha Koome visited Nakuru City to launch the small claims court and the same sparked up a conversation within the legal profession and also the lay people. This piece seeks to demystify the elements within the operationalization of the small claims’ court.
The Small Claims Act of 2016 is the legislation that created the Small Claims Court. According to paragraph one of Article 169 of the Constitution of Kenya, this is a lower court in the structure of the judicial system in Kenya, and its monetary jurisdiction covers cases with a maximum value of one million Kenyan shillings. The introduction of the courts is a component of a larger effort to make it simpler and more convenient for businesses to operate in the nation. The purpose of the courts is to provide easier access to justice by lowering the number of pending cases and facilitating the resolution of disputes via processes that are straightforward, low-cost, and quick. The primary mission of the court is to uphold the right to access justice as outlined in Article 48 of the Constitution. This is to be accomplished by keeping court procedures straightforward, concluding cases in a timely manner, maintaining procedural equity, and charging fees that are within acceptable bounds.
Why The Small Claims Court?
A claim will probably be considered considerably more rapidly in a Small Claims Court than it would be in a standard magistrate's court, and one will obtain a judgment pretty immediately after the hearing has been completed in a Small Claims Court. According to subsection (1) of Section 34 of the Small Claims Act, all procedures that are brought before the court on any given day, to the extent that this is practically possible, must be heard and decided on the same day or on a day-to-day basis until a final resolution is made. This presents a significant benefit in circumstances when expenditures are expected to continue to mount up until the issue is rectified.
In most cases, the filing costs required by the Small Claims Court are less expensive than those required by the normal Magistrates Court. For instance, the filing costs for a claim with a monetary value of one million Kenyan shillings in the Small Claims Court are one thousand Kenyan shillings, whereas the filing fees for a claim with the same monetary value in the Magistrates courts are two thousand Kenyan shillings.
The Small Claims Court is not bound by the Civil Procedure Rules (2010), and the procedures that are followed in this court are purposefully advertised as being less formal, plain, and straightforwardly easy. The Small Claims Court Act exempts court proceedings from the rigid application of the standards of evidence and permits the court to include as evidence any material that it deems credible or trustworthy.
It is anticipated that the Small Claims Court would hasten the delivery of justice, particularly in matters of trade disputes, collections of debt (both personal and commercial), and personal injury claims, amongst other types of cases. It is reasonable to assume that a monetary jurisdiction of one million Kenyan shillings (KES) would be enough to handle the majority of the claims that are typically filed in these regions. Individuals and corporations may not be required to wait for their disputes to be resolved by these courts if the turnaround time in these courts is quick enough. Instead, they may have the option of using these courts to enforce their legal rights. It is possible that the courts may become overburdened with a high number of cases at some point in the future; nonetheless, we hope that these courts will continue to maintain an increasing number of adjudicators so that they can fulfill their original purpose.