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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Supreme Court throws out LASG, Ekiti suits challenging virtual court sitting

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The Supreme Court has thrown out suits by Lagos and Ekiti State Government challenging the move by the National Assembly to amend the Nigerian Constitution to provide for virtual proceedings in courts.

It explained that the action had become imperative since virtual court sitting is not unconstitutional as of present in the country and that the sitting was in accordance with the practice direction by heads of courts in states.

However, the Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour-led seven-man panel of the apex court in an anonymous judgment on Tuesday struck out the suits on the ground that there was a presumption of regularity in favor of virtual sitting in courts.

The panel held that the suits filed by both states seeking an interpretation of the Constitution to determine whether or not virtual court proceedings and sitting is constitutional was premature since the National Assembly was still in the process of amending the Constitution or enact a law to that effect.

The apex court panel ruled that judges nationwide may continue to conduct virtual proceedings when necessary pending such times when the National Assembly concludes its ongoing constitutional amendment to accommodate virtual hearing.

In his ruling, Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour said that all parties should maintain status quo until such times when the National Assembly comes out with a position on virtual hearing.

He held that virtual hearing can only be challenged when the National Assembly has passed its pending Bill seeking to include virtual sitting in the Constitution.

“Just let us wait for the National Assembly whether what they will come up with go against the practice direction issued by Chief Judges of the states and the National Judicial Council (NJC) on virtual sitting.

“As at now, virtual siting is not unconstitutional. Honourable Attorney General (referring to Onigbajo), go and tell your Chief Judge to ask the judges to continue to sit virtually if it is convenient for them,” he said.

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