BY EMEKA EJERE
As part of adjustment necessitated by the Coronavirus pandemic, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Tsoho, has released guidelines and practice directions authorising judges to adopt virtual proceedings for court cases in all its judicial divisions.
The guidelines which take effect from Monday, May 18 are in form practice directions for cases to be heard virtually on Zoom, Skype or any other audio-visual means approved by the court.
The virtual proceeding, however, can only be held with the consent of the parties and their counsels.
Under the new rules, judges of the court cannot hear more than nine cases in a day. Judge and counsel involved are also expected to wear their robes for such proceedings.
The practice directions add that cases for virtual proceedings shall be stated on the Cause List, posted on the court’s website and communicated to counsel and parties, either by e-mail or any other electronic means.
It also allows for Service of court processes to be effected by e-mails, WhatsApp or as may be directed by the court, and the print out of same shall be sufficient proof of service.
In keeping with Federal and States COVID-19 regulations, the Chief Judge also made the wearing of face masks and maintaining of social distancing mandatory.
Every person within the premises of the court and inside the courtroom is to observe social and physical distancing of not less than two meters (6 feet) apart from each other.
The practice directions also stipulate that at any given time, there shall not be a congregation of more than 10 persons within the court premises, except for purposes of court sittings where there shall not be more than 20 persons inside the courtroom including the court staff and counsel at court sittings.