Finality and Infallibility: Issues of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the Citadel of Judicial Gymnastics, expected to review and rectify perceived shortcomings of judgments at the Lower Courts. This court level not just a beacon of hope for justice but also supervisory for judges of lower courts. Supreme Court is the last resort for those who seek justice in all matters concerning their life and property.

Legal luminaries say that to err is human. However, when a matter is fi nally decided by the Supreme Court, there is no further appeal from its judgment. Th e principle of finality of a judgment is an important element in the administration of justice.

Th e principle of fi nality is insisted upon not because the judgment of the apex court is infallible but because a fi nal decision on merits in a litigation between the parties is supposed to subserve the maxim— interest reipublicae ut sit fi nis litium —which means in simple language that, it is in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation. Having said that, will it not be cruel to allow the totally irrelevant and whimsical judgments to go unquestioned?

Recently Supreme and Appeal courts’ confl icting judgments got worrisome and brought the issue of finality and infallibility to focus. I must mention that quite a number of judgments from the Court of Appeal and a few from the Supreme Court appear to have created confusion amongst practitioners and the general public regarding the proper application of the principle of judicial precedent.

Th e appointment of Supreme Court Judges follows stringent laid down stipulations that will ensure transparent justice. Th e seven sitting judges are usually of proven experience and track-record of integrity.

Nigerians look up to this body as an embodiment of legal knowledge, wisdom and power, to safeguard their interests and the society and act without fear or favour in the job entrusted to them. If the Supreme Court fails to be professional and gives an impression that it is whimsical and lacks diligence in the dispensation of justice, it can cause immeasurable damage to the Nigerians democracy.

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