Virtual Court Sitting is Constitutional – Supreme Court

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SWITZERLAND, JULY 15 – The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, has said the holding of virtual sitting by courts across the country was not unconstitutional.

A seven-man panel of the apex court, led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, said although the court had not declared it constitutional, the various practice directions issued by the heads of courts permitting their judges to adopt remote hearing in deserving situations “enjoy the presumption of regularity.”

The panel declared this in separate rulings on the cases filed by the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), and his Ekiti State counterpart, Olawale Fapohunda.

Lagos State had in its suit challenged the power of the National Assembly to amend Section 274 of the Constitution to make provision for virtual proceedings in the Nigerian courts.

Onigbanjo contended that the amendment would amount to a breach of the powers of heads of courts to determine the procedure of proceedings in their courts.

On its part, Ekiti State had urged the court to make an affirmative decision on the issue to remove the speculations and uncertainties being entertained about the validity of virtual proceedings by judges.

But the Supreme Court panel, during sessions of preliminary interrogation of the two attorneys-general when their separate suits were called, informed them that the suits were speculative and mere academic exercise.

Faced with a barrage of questions and comments suggesting the resolve of the court to dismiss the suits, the two lawyers withdrew them.

In striking out the suits, Justice Rhodes-Vivour held that “as of today, virtual sitting is not unconstitutional.”

Members of the panel dismissed the fears by many judges as to the constitutionality of remote hearings in the country.

They maintained that the Chief Judges of the courts that had issued practice directions to provide for virtual sittings when convenient had the duty to enforce the directive.

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