Justice Edward Asante

By Augusta Uchediunor

The ECOWAS Court of Justice said it has updated its Practice Direction to enable the virtual conduct of Court sessions.

The court also said that it has updated the electronic filing of processes, according to the Supplementary practice direction.

A copy of the Practice Direction document, signed by the court’s President, Justice Edward Asante, was circulated to the Registry, Agents and lawyers representing parties before the Court.

Asante said that the practice direction was part of its efforts to adapt to the challenges posed by the raging COVID-19 pandemic which forced the court to suspend its session.

He said the updated practice direction on Electronic Case Management and Virtual Court Session came into force on May 13.

According to him, this will enable the court to resume its sessions which were suspended through a statement on March 20, because of coronavirus pandemic.

“Resumption will enable us clear the backlog of cases and hear the increasing number of cases brought before the court in order to enable it discharge its obligation to litigants for the timely delivery of justice,” the president explained.

He said the updated nine-page direction would enable the court deepen the integration of information technology into its processes for greater efficiency.

”It will also improve access for litigants which will be useful post-COVID-19 in reducing the cost of litigation and beneficial mostly for indigent litigants.

”In updating the direction, the court relied on the provisions of Article 100 of its Rules of Procedure with the objectives of ensuring the safety of Judges, Staff and court users.

”The timely dispensation of justice; the deployment of suitable technology for its case management system and court sessions, and the efficient use of available (judicial and administrative) resources, ” he said.

Asante noted that it has become imperative for the court to explore the use of Electronic Case Management System for electronic filing (e-filing) and Virtual Court Sessions.

He said that where necessary, physical court sessions under strict conditions, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, whilst continuing to discharge its judicial mandate unabated.

”Moreover, the direction will enable the court to continue the hearing of cases on its Cause List, giving preference to interim/intervening (interlocutory) applications and post-judgment applications and other such matters requiring urgent decisions within specified period of time.

”The articles of the practice direction define the procedures for the electronic filing of legal documents and the electronic service of legal documents.

“It also includes modalities for virtual court sessions, recording of proceedings, judgment and ruling as well as physical court sessions in exceptional cases,” the president said.

He added that the direction also provided the guidelines for caseload management to ensure continued access to timely justice without compromising the risk of transmission of COVID-19.