Fear of Coronavirus: Kenyan court handle cases under a tree

In Kenya, coronavirus does not stop court proceedings. The magistrate of the Milimani law court in Nairobi Tuesday refused to sit in a courtroom, instead opting to operate in an open area under a tree in the parking lot as a measure to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

In the rare event, Senior Resident Magistrate Muthoni Nzibe led the court’s cases in a session in which the defendants, their lawyers, bailiffs, and other litigants were denied seats. Only the magistrate, the court’s assistant, and two prosecutors were given white plastic seats.

The proceedings were often disrupted by wind blowing file documents, forcing the magistrate to hold them at the brown desk. With two agents behind her, Ms. Nzibe was also wearing white rubber gloves, perhaps an additional measure to protect her from the virus.

©Kanyiri Wahito/Nation Media Group – Senior Resident Magistrate Muthoni Nzibe

To enforce the directive of the Ministry of Health that people should stay at a distance of at least one meter from each other, Mrs. Nzibe reminded her assistant, and the accused that they should stay apart. When reading the indictment to the defendants, the court assistant had to shout because of noise from moving vehicles, birds and wind.

One of the cases Mrs. Nzibe presided over was the publication of a fake social media ad by Dr. Pranav Pancholi and Sylvia Ndinda of Avane Cosmetic Dermatology Clinic & Medical Spa at Yaya Centre, Nairobi. Unlike standard practice, where suspects are locked in cells in the basement of the court, waiting for treatment by the prosecutor to appear in court, the two were not detained. Instead, they stayed for more than two hours along court corridors under the supervision of police officers from Kilimani’s Directorate-General for Criminal Investigation (DCI).

The two defendants arrived at court minutes before 9 a.m. and answered the indictment at 11 a.m. They were arrested on Monday by DCI detectives and Kenyan doctors and dental administrators for placing an ad claiming they had Covid-19 rapid self-test Kits for Sh3,000 (approx. 29.00 USD)