The Federal High Court (FHC) on Monday directed judges of its various judicial divisions to adopt virtual proceedings for court cases.
Chief Judge of the FHC, Justice John Tsoho, issued the directive in the new 2020 Practice Directions for the COVID-19 period dated May 18 and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.
The direction, however, provides that proceedings can only be held virtually with the consent of the parties and their counsel.
Also, under the new rules, FHC judges cannot hear more than nine cases daily.
The direction also provides that:
“Virtual proceeding is hereby adopted for adjudication in the Federal High Court.
“Virtual proceedings can be either by Zoom, Skype or any other audio-visual platform approved by the Court,”
The CJ also directed that where parties and their counsel agree to virtual proceedings in a case, they should liaise with the court’s Registrar to schedule the hearings.
He said that cases for virtual proceedings shall then be stated on the Cause List, posted on the FHC website, and communicated to counsel and parties, either by e-mail or any other electronic means.
Mr Tsoho added that the Judge and counsel in such proceedings must also be properly robed.
“Service of court processes may be effected by e-mails, WhatsApp or as may be directed by the Court, and shall be deemed as good service.
“Service of hearing notices may be effected by e-mail, WhatsApp, text messages or as may be directed by the Court
“The print out of same shall be sufficient proof of service,” he said.
Also, in keeping with the Federal and States COVID-19 regulations, the Chief Judge also made mandatory, the wearing of face masks and maintaining of social distancing.
“Face Masks must be properly worn by everyone within the court premises to cover their mouths and noses at all times.
“Every person within the premises of the court and inside the court room shall observe the requirement of social and physical distancing of not less than 2 meters (6 feet) apart from each other,
“At any given time, there shall not be a congregation of more than ten (10) within the Court premises, except for purposes of court sittings.
“There shall not be more than twenty (20) persons inside the court room including the court staff and counsel at court sittings.” he said.