Technology has been a useful tool in the practice of law; the use of internet and mobile- based technology has made legal research and drafting of pleadings more manageable to legal practitioners. The practice in Kenya is that; once pleadings are drawn, they have to be signed, filed and served; all which have included printing them in volumes, taking them to court, obtaining court summons; and having to look for the adversary to serve them with the documents personally.
A story is told of a court process server who had been made to eat copies of pleadings as a punishment, after he had been confined in a defendant’s residence when he had sought to effect service. Pleadings and summonses, however sensitive would sometimes be posted on parties’ door posts or conspicuous places, or sent through Newspapers where parties could not be traced.
Malicious defendants often took advantage of the procedure rules, in their bid to defeat or delay justice. Sometime ago, you would have to travel 100 miles to send court documents to your next door neighbour’s Registered post; just because he wouldn’t open his door during the day! In the 90s, a Presidential Election Petition in Kenya was dismissed simply because the Petitioner had failed to serve the President in person as per the rules; yet the Petitioner could not even get an inch near the Presidential Security Unit.
The Judicial attitude at this age now shifted to allowing service through what is known as substituted service. A new dawn is now set, and the “You’ve been served” narrative is slowly moving towards reality, as the Rules Committee has now recommended Service of Summons through what is referred to as Mobile- enabled Messaging services that we envisage to include SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, Messenger and all others; provided that a delivery receipt can be indicated.
The rules also recognize and permit service by registered courier services. The impact thereof is a wait- and- see; we however think that this is a step to the right direction. Other new changes set to grease the wheel of justice include electronic/ online filing of cases, online- case management and online invitations.
Gone are the days when Justice would be hidden at the Chancellor’s feet miles away.
Brian Onyango, the writer trains at TripleOKlaw Advocates, Nairobi. Email: