A retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte, yesterday enjoined courts to â€œavoid technical justice and do substantial justice.â€
Karibi-Whyte made the call while delivering a lecture titled â€œIn the Eyes of the Lawâ€ at the week-long celebration of the 35th anniversary of the National Institute of Legal Studies (NIALS) in Abuja.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the retired judge referred to the decision of the Supreme Court on the 1979 presidential election adding that it was â€œone case that resonated so many years after the decision had been handed downâ€.
He identified two other election petitions decided by the apex court which included the Adamawa and Rivers governorship election of 1999 and 2007 respectively adding that the decisions remained â€œjurisprudentialâ€.
â€œIn Nigeria, we have several notable judicial pronouncements and I chose to discuss three which I consider novel in many respects.
â€œWhat is 12 two-third of 19 will continue resonate in this country and beyond; the expanded definition of death in the Adamawa case will remain a challenge to lawyers and medical practitioners.
â€œAnd that someone whose name was omitted in election boxes and deprived of standing for election was eventually declared a winner has remained jurisprudential.
In the cases analysed, the issue has been whether the courts make or interpret laws.
â€œIt is trite that courts do not make but expound the law and in doing this it is in the interest of justice and fair play to shy away from technicalities,â€ he said.
He noted that there was a need for words used in decisions to be explicit adding that the rules of interpretation were meant to aid effective creation of statutes.
Also speaking, Prof. Epiphany Azinge, Director-General, NAILS, told newsmen that the lecture was a way for stakeholders to share their views and also sensitise the public on decisions of the judiciary.
â€œIt is not often that the public exception of what the judiciary has done seems to be in accord with their expectation but it is not for everybody to interpret the law.
â€œThe decision is vested in the judges so even if they make mistakes in the course of their interpretation, we have to live with such mistakes.
â€œBut in order to make sure mistakes are corrected, we have the hierarchy of the courts.
â€œWe have taken this as an opportunity for them to ventilate their views on this matter and sensitise people.
â€œThey should continue to bear with us and understand that in the course of interpretation there are certain technicalities that must come to mind and the judges are trained to do so,â€ he said.
The lecture was part of activities to mark the week long 35th anniversary of the institute.