The Nigerian Senate, on May 12, 2020, considered a bill seeking to amend the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (‘the Constitution’) to legalise virtual court proceedings. The proposed bill, titled “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020” is aimed at ensuring corresponding amendment of relevant provisions of the Constitution, in giving legal support to virtual court proceedings.
The proposed bill, if passed, will amend Section 36(3) of the Constitution which provides for court proceedings, including the delivery of court decisions, to be held in public. The proposed bill shall ensure that nothing in the subsection shall invalidate proceedings of a court or tribunal including announcement of decisions of the court or tribunal where the same is held by remote or virtual proceedings.
The proposed bill also amends Section 36 (4) of the Constitution which provides for hearing of criminal matters in public by the addition of sub-paragraph (c) to the effect that criminal proceedings conducted remotely or virtually shall not be invalidated.
Section 36(12) shall also be amended by the addition of subsection (13) which defines “remote hearing” to mean proceedings or hearing of court conducted via Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp video or any other social media platform or technological innovation.
It is believed that expeditious consideration and passage of the proposed bill will lay to rest the ongoing debate by legal practitioners on the legality of virtual hearings vis-a-viz Section 36(3) of the Constitution as well as facilitate efficient administration of justice.
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Premium Times Article by Queen Esther Iroanusi - ‘Nigeria Senate introduces bill to legalise virtual court proceedings’ https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/392429-nigeria-senate-introduces-bill-to-legalise-virtual-court-proceedings.html accessed 27 May 2020 at 14:30pm.