In line with the Small Claims Court Act, 2016 the Judiciary has operationalized the Small Claims Courts (SCCs). The underpinning logic behind the establishment and subsequent operationalization of the Small Claims Courts is to enhance the access to and expeditious delivery of justice and to further provide a platform within the justice system where civil and commercial disputes whose value does not exceed Kshs 1 million are dealt with in a simple, efficient and cost-efficient manner. The establishment of the court was also part of a wider initiative to enhance the ease of doing business in the country, by creation of an enabling environment for the Small and Medium Enterprises SMEs to thrive by reducing the cost and time for enforcement of commercial disputes.
The operationalization of the SCCs is also aimed at the creation of a people centric approach to access to justice by affording the citizenry justice services that were accessible, inclusive, efficient, timely and responsive to specific access needs of particular groups likely to suffer from social and economic disadvantage. It had largely been observed that hefty court fees, complexity of procedures and delays in determination of cases contributed to barriers to access to justice more so to the marginalized, vulnerable and those with complex needs. The scale up access to justice as envisioned is then able to create and prioritize basic and community level justice. The operationalization of the SCCs is therefore designed to contribute towards achieving equality, poverty reduction and social inclusion by ensuring that all persons have equal access to fair and timely justice.
During the 1st Phase of the operationalization of the court, in the FY 2021/2022, the court was rolled out in twelve (12) counties in: Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Uasin Gishu, Machakos & Makueni, Nyeri, Nakuru, Kakamega, Mombasa, Kisumu and Meru Counties. By May 2023, the various SCCs had heard and determined over 27,000 cases valued at approximately Ksh 4.6 Billion. The SCCs maintained a median time of 53 days for hearing and conclusion of cases. The significant reduction in time taken to resolve small claims is indicative of the transformative trajectory that the Judiciary is currently undertaking with a view of making the institution more effective and efficient.
It is notable that the operationalization of the Small Claims Courts has enhanced access to justice by expanding the reach of the formal justice system and facilitated access to justice for a category of claimants who were previously unable to access mainstream judicial services for various reasons.