A Small Claims Court is a specialized commercial court created by statute with specific duties and powers designed to provide a judicial determination involving small amounts of money. World over, the courts are characterized by simplicity of procedure, cost effectiveness and speedy resolution of disputes thereby enhancing access to and expeditious delivery of justice.
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.
The Small Claims Court is a subordinate court in line with Article 169 (1) (d) of the constitution and established under Section 4 (1) of the Small Claims Court Act, 2016. The Court is required to adopt measures that ensures timely disposal of cases using the least expensive method, equality, fairness of process and simplicity of procedure. As such, the statutory lead time for all filed cases as per Section 34 of the Act is sixty days (60).
As per Section 12 (1) of the Act, the Court has jurisdiction to determine civil claims relating to;
The pecuniary jurisdiction of the Court is set at one million shillings as per the provisions of Section 12(3) of the Act.
The establishment of the court is part of a wider initiative to enhance the ease of doing business in the country by providing an enabling environment for investment, competitiveness and accelerated private sector growth thorough the reduction of cost and time of resolving commercial disputes before it.
To be a model court of excellence committed to efficient, accessible and accountable service delivery, while protecting the rights of all especially the vulnerable.
To dispense justice in a fair, timely, simple, affordable and accessible manner, enhance the ease of doing business in the country and uphold the rule of law in accordance with the Constitution.