The Federal High Court, has issued new practice directions that allows for virtual hearing of cases and electronic service of notices on lawyers.
This is to Provide for a fair, impartial and expeditious determination of pre-election cases.
The new practice directions, which was issued by Chief Judge of the Court, Justice John Tsoho, forbade judges from granting more than two adjournments to any party in an election dispute.
It also provided that interlocutory issues touching on the jurisdiction of the Court, shall be suspended and delivered at the stage of final judgment.
According to a statement the court issued through its Assistant Director, Information, Catherine Christopher, the CJ made the new rules in the exercise of the power conferred on him by section 254, 285 (9), (10) and (14) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Sections 29(5), as well as 84(14) of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).
The statement adds that the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court may direct that matters be transferred to the appropriate Division or any other Division as may be reasonably practicable considering the given circumstances.
On service of processes, the new rules, provides that a party shall not serve a notice of an application on another party on the date scheduled for hearing.
Also, to ensure speedy dispensation of justice, electronic mail and other electronic means may be employed by the Court in order to inform counsel of urgent Court case events. Provides that such notification shall be given at least forty-eight hours before the scheduled Court date.
“In line with the provision of Rule 5(2) of the Rule, parties are expected to furnish the Court Registrar with functional telephone numbers and email addresses of themselves and their counsel.
“The Court and the parties shall prevent unnecessary delays and accordingly, not more than two adjournments shall be granted to any party to an action covered by the provisions of the Practice Directions.
“Where a party seeks to change his Counsel during the lifespan of a case, not more than two adjournments shall be granted to him to so do.
“Where it is expedient, and in furtherance of the objectives of this Practice directions, the Court may schedule the time and date of hearing on such day and at such time as may be convenient for the parties,” the statement partly read.
It further adds that counsel shall ensure that they are present in court and ready to proceed with their case at all times.
“Where the provisions of the Rule 6(7) of the Rule becomes impracticable by reason of ill-health or any other unavoidable incidence, such Counsel shall ensure that a Counsel of requisite knowledge of the issues before the Court Is present in Court and ready to proceed with the case in his or her stead or apply that the case be heard virtually where practicable; with the consent of parties”, the new practice directions stipulated.