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Why new court fees schedule should be embraced, even celebrated

The recently operationalized automated court fees schedule is one of Judiciary’s digital innovations that court users should be celebrating.

The schedule has brought rationality, predictability and more reliance on automation, as opposed to human interventions in calculating court fees – eliminating their attendant weaknesses.

The new fee structure which was incorporated into the e-filing system on 1st September, 2021 was adopted and uploaded following wide consultations carried out at various levels throughout the country. The stakeholders that the Judiciary engaged included Court Users Committees, the Law Society of Kenya, court staff and members of the public.

A common thread in the feedback given by both internal and external stakeholders was that the previous structure of court fees was complex and scattered in too many schedules and statutes. The complexity of the fees was also of concern to consumers of justice who were not able to carry out their own fees assessment.

The court staff who are charged with assessing court fees were of the view that the process was cumbersome, resulting in either over or under assessment of the fees.

There is no doubt the fees schedule which was enacted in 1995, was complex. The fees in respect of liquidated claims was levied on every Sh100. This resulted in a fee structure with 13,905 items.

The formula to calculate the fees payable was complex and known only to a few. And boy! Didn’t the chosen few who knew how to calculate flex and enjoy the power as they were mostly seen as indispensable!

The current fees schedule for liquidated claims has 9 items only. Under the old court fees regime, a liquidated claim of Sh200,000 would progress through 2005 levels ranging from Sh50 to Sh10, 485.

In the new fees structure, the amount payable is Sh2,000. As part of the harmonization process an increase of Sh1,000 was levied on liquidated claims above Sh1,400,000. In respect of unliquidated claims there will be a standard fee of Sh2,000.

The filing fee paid at the commencement of the suit will be a one-off amount that will cater for mentions, verifying affidavit, list of witnesses, list of documents, witness statements, submissions, annexures, list of authorities, exhibits and proceedings.

A one-off payment at the time of case filing will reduce delays as the inconvenience of frequent assessment of various small items will be eliminated.

Under the new fees regime, children’s cases will not attract any fees in the interest of promoting access to justice for children. The Judiciary is also putting in place a robust pauper brief system to cater for indigent clients.

Training and sensitization for stakeholders to demystify the court fees, empower the users and enhance access to information, will continue to be a priority. Meanwhile, the Judiciary has put in place a support system to handle any issues as they emerge, as court users engage with the new dawn.

In a nutshell, a court fees schedule that is predictable and known to all as opposed to a few goes a long way in promoting transparency, credibility and enhances speed and efficiency in access to justice. Indeed, the new fees schedule brings the Judiciary one step closer to realization of CJ Martha Koome vision of achieving Social Transformation Through Access to Justice.

The writer is the Registrar of the High Court. She can be reached through judith.omange@court.go.ke.

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