Not Contigent Upon ‘Live Telecast’.
By Mohammed Adamu
The requirements for what the judiciary must do to gain the trust of the people, is already a settled matter: it is that whenever judges give a judgement or ruling on any matter, ‘justice’ must not only be done in the matter, but it must BE SEEN to have been done. Meaning it must be obvious to virtually every ‘right-thinking, objectively-reasoning’ hypothetical ‘man on the street’, that justice has indeed been done!
The test is an objective one. And the presumption is that this ‘right-thinking, objectively-reasoning, hypothetical ‘man on the street’, has, without bias, educated himself about the issues before the courts, and thus has a reasonable layman’s understanding of the ‘facts’ and ‘law’ of the case. Plus, at the end of it all, such a person is able, rationally to understand or at least appreciate the totality of the reasons (ratio decidendi), that the judges relied upon to arrive at their unanimous or disparate judgments.
So the question arises: what manner of ‘right-thinking, objectively reasoning, hypothetical man on the street’ are we talking about? Because not every ‘man on the street’ is right-thinking or objectively reasoning. Who is our right-thinking, objectively reasoning, hypothetical man on the street here? Certainly not the Obidiotic layman who, without the knowledge of, or determination to look at, the ‘facts’ and ‘law’ of Obi’s case, is ignorantly adamant that Pit’Obi won, and that therefore justice can ONLY be seen to have been done if he is declared winner!
And certainly too not even the Obidiotic learned men who, in spite of knowing the ‘facts’ and the ‘law’ of Pit’Obi’s case, choose not only to lie to their ignorant supporters, but infact delude themselves too, that the courts can be blackmailed to rule one way and not the other! The ‘right-thinking, objectively reasoning hypothetical man on the street, is not just that lay or learned man who knows the ‘facts’ and the ‘law’ of the case, but he is also one who even in the ‘unexpected’ event that the candidate he supports loses, he still has the jurisprudential disposition to say ‘as the court pleases’ and move on!
Those who say ‘as the court pleases’ do not do so because they agree with the judgment. They do so because they know that one party has to win and the other has to lose, and that, as lawyers say, ‘there has to be an end to litigation’! Because in fact, at the apex point of judicial resolution especially of political cases, the ‘facts’ and the ‘law’ alone of a case, do not determine how judges rule.
There is always an overarching obligation on judges to include consideration of the need to stabilize the polity. Meaning that in addition to adverting their minds to facts and law, they also ensure that outcomes are not absurd. Outcomes for example such as cancelling an entire election because there were pockets of inadvertent, innocent or negligent irregularities, or even deliberate malpractices, on the part of the umpire!
Unless such irregularities, malpractices or non compliance with the electoral laws are of such perverse magnitude as to manifestly affect the overall outcome of the election, no court or tribunal wort its jurisprudential salt will throw an electoral baby with the bathwater! It has to be proved to be so by the one who is asserting that it is so perverse. And it is for the judges to determine that this has been proved, not beyond reasonable doubt, but by a preponderance of evidence before the court!
But the long and short of it is equally true, that matters will eventually come to the Apex Court; where, no matter how differently parties to a case may feel, the ruling by the final Court will be ‘infallible’ even when it is obviously fallibly arrived at! Because that is the ultimate justice at this point. And it is the reason lawyers say that: ‘the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible; rather it is infallible only because it is final’!
And so, no matter who wins or who loses in the end, if you find yourself disputing this time-honored judicial axiom, you are NOT that hypothetical ‘right-thinking, objectively reasoning ‘man on the street’ of my legalistic contemplation!