Supreme Court fixes July 14 to hear suit against virtual hearing

The Supreme Court will on July 14 begin hearing in two suits separately filed by Ekiti and Lagos state governments challenging the validity and constitutionality of the Virtual Court Sittings procedure.

The apex court listed in its cause list against July 14, 2020 the hearing of the suit marked ‘’SC/CV/260/2020’’, filed by the Attorney General of Lagos state and named the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation and the National Assembly as the 1st and 2nd defendants.

Its also set to begin to hear on the suit marked, ‘’SC/CV/261/2020’’ filed by the Attorney General of Ekiti state against the AGF. It listed also the Attorneys General of Lagos and Ogun states as the 2nd and 3rd defendants.

Both Plaintiffs commenced their suits by way of an originating summons in the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.

The Lagos state however asked the Supreme Court to determine whether having regard to Section 36(1), (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) use of technology by remote hearings of any kind, whether by Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, Skype or any other audio visual or video-conference platform by the Lagos State High Court or any other Courts in Nigeria in aid of hearing and determination of cases are constitutional.

On its own, Ekiti is challenging constitutionality of the directive of the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN) to the Head of Courts at federal and state levels to adopt Virtual Court Sittings in courts.

Ekiti state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, Ekiti who filed the suit asked the apex court to issue an order to annul the directive for the adoption of the Virtual or Remote Court sittings.

Ekiti state however named the Attorneys General of Lagos and Ogun States as 2nd and 3rd defendants because they have implemented virtual court proceedings.

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Fapohunda however wants the Supreme Court to nullify the directive to the extent that same purports to be binding on state High Courts and other subordinate courts in Ekiti State for being inconsistent with Section 1(3), 4(6), 5(2), 6(2), 36(3) and (4), 272 and 274 of the 1999 Constitution.

Ekiti State further wants the Supreme Court to determine 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 is also asking the apex court to decide whether Lagos and Ogun state 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).

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