(2019) LPELR-49221(SC)
Whether hearing notice can be served by electronic means

“May I dwell on the issue of hearing notice that was allegedly not
served on the appellant as amounting to denial of fair hearing. It is
however the mode of service that is being challenged by the appellant’s
learned counsel in this appeal to have denied him fair hearing. Failure
to give notice of proceedings to the opposing party in a case where
service of process is required is a fundamental omission which renders
such proceedings void. This is so because the Court would have no
jurisdiction to entertain it. Hearing notice is a document or
information that emanates from the registry of a Court, giving legal
notification to parties in a suit the dates on which the suit would be
heard. Once a party or his counsel is served hearing notice they are
both deemed to have actual knowledge of the date the suit would be
heard, and if such a party decides to stay away from Court he does so at
his own peril. See Per RHODES-VIVOUR, JSC in DARMA v. ECOBANK (2017)
LPELR-41663 (SC),
Nevertheless, it is on record that the appellant was served or informed
of the hearing date of 15/3/2016 via SMS. The Evidence Act has now taken
notice of the technology age we are in that electronic evidence is now
admissible. This was ably tackled by my learned brother, per
(2018) LPELR- 43902 (SC), when he pungently and right held:
“The point has to be made that the phone call mode of service would
ordinarily be of good service so long as the party is provided the
notice at least 48 hours before the scheduled Court date. The regularity
of service is no longer jettisoned because it was made electronically
as the current rules of Court have ensured. See Order 2 Rule 4(c) of the
Court of Appeal, 2013 rules.”
The lower Court in this case reported as COMPACT MANIFOLD & ENERGY
NIMPAR, JCA, observed and I adopt and agree with him as a solid legal
foundation for electronic service of hearing notice and other legal
processes thus:
“The essence of a hearing notice is to bring to the notice of the party
that his matter will come on the date named in the notice of hearing.
Can the notice be effected by other means of notification? The answer is
in the affirmative. When the rules use the words hearing notice, it did
not specify that it must be hardcopy. Was the judge wrong to use the
electronic method of informing parties about the date of hearing? I
pause here to say this is the 21st century and technology is ruling
every aspect of human endeavour and therefore even Courts must be
abreast of these technological advancement and be ready to absorb the
aspects that will enhance the quality of justice and aid speedy
determination of cases. The Courts have also moved on in that regard.
Indeed, electronic service has taken root in the Nigerian legal system
and it would be strange for anybody to frown at being served
electronically. See CONTINENTAL SALES LTD. V. R. SHIPPING INC (2012)
LPELR- 7905 (CA). I am of the view that the Court below was in order by
directing that the appellant should be informed by text. The Court as a
discretion to direct the notification in a particular way. Issuance of a
hard copy hearing notice is not a requirement of law and failure to
issue and serve same cannot offend the rule of fair hearing. See
MIRCHANDANI V. PINHEIRO (2001) 3 NWLR (Pt. 701) 552 @ 573. wherein the
Court held: “It is not in all cases that the absence of it will
automatically vitiate trials in the context of Section 36 of the 1999
Constitution. A hearing Notice is not therefore a mandatory judicial
process that must be issued and served in all cases. The requirement is a
rule of the Court not a statutory requirement. Rules of Court are to
aid the Court in adjudication of cases. It is not to arm-twist the Court
into becoming a robot.” Per UWANI MUSA ABBA AJI, JSC (Pp 29 – 32 Paras B – E)


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