How Effectively Do The Magistrate Administer Justice In Kenya?
By virtue of the rapidly increasing numbers in criminal cases brought to the courts for the purposes of settling disputes and thereby eradicating social evils and threats to the stability of society, the law as an instrument of social control has from time to time been called upon to play its part in curbing the problems that are inherent in crime and related evils. The increase in the number of instances in which the law is called upon to so act, in turn inspires those who are subject to its operation, and its admirers, to t~<e a deeper and more objective look at the judicial system and the role of the law in so far as the protection of the individual is concerned. Needless to say, the law has been given the responsibility of guarding the rights of the citizens. For this reason the law is expected, through its machinery, to uphold the minimum standards of what is right, fitting and fair to the satisfaction of the individuals, in the contact of a just society. I have chosen to discuss the role of magistrates in this connection for the simple reason that generally, the operation of the law, in terms of settling disputes, begins, (and more often than not these disputes end) at the magistrate's court in Kenya. This situation arises partly because of the expenses involved in the search of adjudication by a higher court, and partly because of lack of information regarding the citizen's right of appeal. Consequently few people convicted at magistrate's court or feeling aggrieved by a magistrate's ruling in a civil case ever choose to take the matter to a higher court. Nonetheless, it is the magistrates who deal with the day to day court cases involving Kenyan s of all walks of life. It is apparent, therefore, that magistrates by virtue of this fact constitute the fundamental basis upon which justice in Kenya is conducted. TI1ediscussion of their role, then, becomes important, as a major shortcut to the general evaluation of the degree of satisfaction of the entire population with the judicial system and the overall promotion of justice. attempt will be made in this paper to focus on the major issues, including, for instance, a look at the various ways in which the bulk of cases that continue to flow into the courts are tried; the problems involved in dispensing with this task; the requisite standards of performance; the shortcomings of the practice, and in the final analysis, the effects thereof.