Tuesday, 14 July 2020

BREAKING NEWS: NIGERIAN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS VIRTUAL COURT PROCEEDINGS, DECLARES SUITS FILED BY LAGOS, EKITI STATES INCOMPETENT


The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Tuesday (July 14, 2020) struck out separate suits filed by Lagos and Ekiti States, seeking judicial interpretations on the validity and constitutionality or otherwise of virtual court sittings. The court held that each of the suits was speculative in nature without any valid cause of action.

While striking out the suit, a seven-member panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, declared that virtual court sittings proceedings were not unconstitutional. 

In the suit by Ekiti State, the Attorney-General of the State, Mr Olawale Fapohunda, had asked the court to determine whether the directive issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation, to the Heads of Courts at Federal and States level, as it relates to the conduct of virtual proceedings in court, was not a violation of the federalism provisions of the 1999 Constitution. The State also wanted the apex court to determine if the directive issued in line with the National Judicial Council was not a violation of the constitutional provisions on fair hearing as it relates to the conduct of criminal trials in public.

Furthermore, Ekiti State asked the court to set aside or strike down directives to the extent that they purport to be binding on the Ekiti State High Court, for being inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

Ekiti State further asked that the Supreme Court determines whether the AGF’s guidelines are not a derogation from the legislative, executive and judicial law-making, law execution and adjudicatory rules making powers exclusively vested in states of the federation in respect of states courts, by virtue of Sections 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 272 and 272 and 274 of the Constitution.

The plaintiff also asked the apex court to decide whether Lagos and Ogun states, having adopted virtual court hearings pursuant to the lockdown, the three arms of Government in Ekiti State are bound to conduct their legislative, executive and judicial functions pertaining to adjudication in state courts in compliance with the directive upon which the National Judicial Council formulated the provisions of Articles E(1) to E(13) of its Guidelines (issued on May 7, 2020).

However, in a unanimous judgement, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour declared that as at today, July 14, 2020, virtual court sittings are not unconstitutional, warning that any Judge who refused to sit via virtual proceedings should be reported to the National Judicial Council (NJC) for disciplinary action.

Apart from the Attorney General of the Federation, the Attorneys General of Lagos and Ogun States who have implemented virtual court proceedings were also listed as second and third defendants.

The issue of the constitutionality or otherwise of remote or virtual court hearing has dominated national discussion since the publication of the guidelines of the NJC which recommended virtual court proceedings for courts in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Opinion has been divided among lawyers on the legality of the directive.

A number of High Courts including those in Lagos, Ogun, and Borno states, have proceeded to implement the guidelines while many States have been adamant in their opposition to the directive insisting that only a constitutional amendment or pronouncement by the Supreme Court can ensure the legality of virtual court hearings.

Credit: The Sun & CahnnelsTv

  1. Beautiful judgment. We must applaud the Apex Court for bold and pragmatic decision. The coast is now clear to commence the practice of Virtual Court Proceedings. Quite a timely intervention by the Apex Court.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Did the Supreme Court really rule on this? This article just does not 'flow'. Please what is the citation of this case?

    ReplyDelete

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search