The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has protested the continued closure of the Land Registries Countrywide over the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter addressed to Lands Cabinet Secretary Farida Karoney, LSK President Nelson Havi stated that the extended suspension of critical services “will result in serious infractions of legal rights and obligations”.
The Land Registries suspended its services for 28 days on March 17, four days after Kenya confirmed its first case of COVID-19, as part of government efforts to contain the spread of the disease in the county.
Despite an agreement to freeze statutory timelines for registration of documents and penalties incurred as a result of the interrupted services, Havi said the CS has not issued a gazette confirming the same.
The CS is also yet to implement online submission of applications to ensure adherence to ranking of claims for interest in land, said Havi.
“Such submissions will be proper reference points when the Land Registries are restored to working order, ” the letter dated April 14 reads in part.
The LSK President said he was aware that the Ministry was mulling extending the suspension period that elapsed on April 13 by two weeks with limited services being offered to cater for discharge charges and court orders.
The society now wants the Ministry to also cover the issuance of court orders, valuations, stamp duty, transfers as the services are interlinked.
“As indicated in our meeting, a blanket closure of registries without addressing statutory obligations that are time bond will result in serious infractions of legal rights and obligations, ” said LSK.
“We are also of the view that it is possible to achieve the government purpose without compromising either the health of public servants or the legal rights, obligations and health of the general public…”
To operationalize its demands, LSK calls on the CS to publish rules of engagement in line with the Health guidelines and protocols on COVID-19.
The society also wants CS Karoney to give a green light regarding the continuation of online land searches.
“Indeed, applications that can be submitted online should proceed as such to ensure ranking priorities in interests is respected. In this regard and as you are aware, the recent Business Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020, published in the Kenya Gazette Notice on 20th March 2020 as Kenya GAzette Supplement No.26 of 2020 is now operational. The changes in law introduced by this Act have substantially removed the legal challenges which had affected the veracity of online searches and transactions,” LSK said.
“A gazette notice should forthwith be issued freeing statutory timelines for any service that is not offered until the Land Registries resume operations.”