Judicial Institution: The Frame Work of Nigeria’s Legal System

The term Judicial Institution simply refers to the court and officers of the court. It originates from the concept of separation of powers which was established by Montesquien. Although Aristotle and John Locke had earlier stated its extension, the aim of Montesquien was to seek a set of constitutional framework of political liberty. According to him:
    “miserable indeed would be the case where the same man or the same body whether of the nobles or of the rave is (people) to exercise those three powers that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and that of judging the crimes or differences of individuals”
It should be pointed however that the logic of this concept lies in its popularity rather than in strict classification. Constitutional mandate definitely allocates certain functions to each of the three arms of government. Be that as it may, it could be ascertained that the court as the last hope of man has an important role to play in the society hence the need to consider its role in the regulation of continuous conflicting societal interest.
Judicial Institution: The Frame Work of Nigeria’s Legal System


The Roles and Duties of the Judiciary

That said, the roles and duties of the judiciary include
It is beyond that the aim of the judicial arm of government is the promotion of peace and order, this can only be achieved if each person is given his clues or if the basic tenements or principles of group existence are observed. It can be said therefore that the aim of the judiciary should be the promotion of justice. Hence, the court is called “The Temple of Justice”
Originally, the term “court” meant among other things, “a sovereign palace”. It has now acquired the meaning of the place where “justice is administered”.
The notion of justice is more often depicted by the portrait of Justice usually displayed in front of or the top of buildings of most superior courts of record in Nigeria. It stands erect, blindfolded by a piece of cloth or bandage. She holds a sword in the right hand and a perfectly balanced scale on the left.
“The personification of justice is a blindfolded woman robed in white and wearing a crown… she supports a pair of scales on her laps with one hand, her other hand holds a bare upright sword…”
1. She is robed in white for the judge must be without moral blemish which might impair judgment and obstruct true justice. She is blindfolded for nothing but pure reason not the often misleading evidence of the senses. To be used in making judgment, she is regally dressed for justice is the noblest and most splendid of concepts.
2. the scale is used to measure quantities and material things as a metaphor for justice which sees that each man receives that which is due him. No more and no less.
3. The sword represents the regal of justice which does not hesitate to punish
According to an unknown writer, he said:
“whoever created that effigy of justice as a sword wielding damsel with a blindfold deserves credit for considerable genius”
The image cast by that beautiful effigy is that of an all-powerful creature dispensing the carrot and stick with material equanimity and impartiality.

Read: Arbitration as an Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism

The Concept of Justice

The Oxford dictionary defines justice as “the quality of being morally just or righteous; the principles of just dealing or just conduct, integrity and rectitude”. Aristotle defined justice as an attitude of the mind that enables and inclines a man to do what is just and as a result of which he does and wants to do what is just.
Osborne dictionary defines justice as the upholding of right and the punishing of wrongs by law. It could be seen from the above that no single definition can be advised for the word justice could however be stated as ancient in origin. Justice is said to have its origin in the word “jus” or “justun” or “justician” which means to bind.
A. Justice as Religion
Another opinion asserts that the term justice when differently traced is inextricably connected with religion and in this respect, it has been taken to relate to issues like salvation, defense against evil, purification, daily prayers and so on. On the basis of this assertion of the quality of justice, it is ascribes to God himself to denote His infallibility. Justice is also to do the will of God, according to this consensus, the parties to justice should rotate to the obstructs of the divine will therefore to the religionist prayer, sacrifice and the keeping of Sabbath are duties of justice and to them, a just man is he who fulfills all his duties.
Any writer appear to make a distinction between human justice and divine justice.
Divine justice implies absolute dominion of the creator over things created. This is regarded as a perfect justice. Shakespeare in “Merchant of Vernice” alluded to this when he said “True Porti”, one of the characters when she was talking about justice and latin mercy. The attributes of awe and majesty, fear of kings and dread authority have mercy above them. It is enthroned in the attitude and scepter of the king as an attribute of God where mercy seasons Justice. Justice divides the productive instinct of human intellect even though justness and fairness could be regarded as universal qualities of justice. Whatever is just and fair will depend on the conclusion of each person and the community in issue.

2. Justice as Adjudication

To some, establishing judicial institution connotes justice. It restricts justice to adjudication, arbitration and mediation, (the judicial settlement of public disorder and private dispute). This group is satisfied with this method because it provides a civilized alternative for public disorder and private wrongs to be addressed by self-help.

3. Justice as Fair Trial

Disciples of this school take interest in proceedings before the court. To them, adjudication should be fair. They have the idea of “Justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and undoubtedly seen to have been done” – See Rv Sussex Justice Exparte Mc Carthy 1924 1KB 25. In Metropolitan Properties Company v Lannon 1960, Lord Denning said:
“Justice must be rooted in confidence and confidence is destroyed when right minded people go away thinking that the judge is biased” 

D. Justice as Natural Justice

To this group, justice is an inherent requirement and it is conceived as an absolute virtue. It is a state of human affairs in which men in their private social lives conform to a series of ascertainable precepts and principles which are universal, eternal and immutable. To them, justice is not only an issue relating to fair trial. It is the essence of adjudication. Justice as a natural phenomenon has been traced to the beginning of creation. Thus, it is usua; to refer to the time of Adam when the first dispute that took place between God and man was resolved i.e the disobedience of Adam and Eve to the commandment as touching the forbidden fruit.
Lord Fortescue had cause to refer to this incident in the case of R v. Chancellor of Cambridge. Exparte Bentley 1748 2LD LYM Pg 1334 says:

“The laws of God and man both gave the party an opportunity to make his defence if he has any. I remember to have had it observed by a very learned man upon such an occasion that even God himself did not pass sentence on Adam before he was called upon to make his defence. ‘Adam’, says God, ‘Where are thou? Hast thou eaten of the tree whereof I command that thou should not eat?’ And the same question was put to him”

E. Justice as Equality

According to this school, justice primarily means equality. This is referred to as formal justice. Formal justice calls for equality of treatment and that justice should be administered impartially to the rich, poor, strong and weak without fear or favour. This view has however been criticized. According to Honourable Justice Okputa,
“To treat unequals equally is unjust just as it is unjust to treat equals unequal”
This means that in societies where slavery thrives, what is due to a slave is different from what is due to a freeman and yet, the laws of such society would be said to attain formal justice. If all slaves are treated alike and justice is administered to them as such without partiality, then only can we call justice as equality.

F. Moral Justice

To advocates of moral justice, justice is an ethical issue involving an embodiment of moral values in legal parlance. The use of phrases like “whether the decision is just and fair, fair and reasonable, sound in accordance with common/good sense,” all of these depict importation of moral values to the decision of the court.

G. Social Justice

The social value of the decision of courts is used to determine whether justice has been done. The importation of phrases like public policy, public interest, expedience, social convenience or utility shows that some other issues are usually considered in doing justice.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that some of these divisions overlap but they come together to show the facets of justice.

The Role of the Judiciary in the Administration of Justice

The Questions here are:
1. what is the role of the judiciary independently of rule?
2. Judging human conduct, must justice be administered within the ambit of these rules?
3. is there anything in justice that is abstract? i.e not according to law?
The relationship between law (rule) and justice is necessary. Lord Wright in his book, “Interpretation of Modern Legal Philosophy”

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