The Senate on Tuesday passed for first reading a Bill which seeks to legalise virtual court proceedings in line with present social distancing measures aimed at containing the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, The Nation reports.

The Bill titled: “1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Alteration) Bill, 2020” was sponsored by Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti Central).

According to the Bill, court proceedings or hearings conducted via zoom, skype, WhatsApp video or any other social media platform or technological innovation would deemed legal after the Constitution has been amended to reflect the new proposals.

The provisions of the Bill as contained in the draft copy, include Section 36 sub-section (3) which states that “this section is hereby amended by the addition of the following:

“Provided that nothing in this Subsection shall invalidate proceedings of a Court or the proceedings of a tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) where same is held by remote hearing or any virtual means now in existence or yet to be developed.

“Section 36 subsection (4) is hereby amended by addition of sub-paragraph (c) as follows: (c) Nothing in the foregoing paragraphs shall invalidate proceedings of a court or the proceedings of a tribunal relating to matters mentioned in subsection (1) of this section (including the announcement of the decisions of the court or tribunal) where same is held by remote hearing or any virtual means now in existence or yet to be developed.

“Section 36 subsection (12) is hereby amended by addition of the following subsection (13): In this section, “remote hearing” means proceedings or hearing of court conducted via zoom, skype, WhatsApp video or any other social media platform or technological innovation”.

The sponsor of the Bill explained further that Section 36 (3) of the Constitution is sufficiently controversial enough now in terms of requirement of public hearing and determination of disputes.

This according to him endangers the results of proceedings eventually held virtually.

“Except the amendment is done urgently, the whole judicial functions of the Nation will remain paralysed,” he said.

According to him, the Bill requires expeditious consideration and passage in view of its desirability.

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