The Queen V The Amalgamated Press Of Nig. Ltd (1961)
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In this matter no specific questions have been referred to this Court under section 108 of the Constitution. The defendants were arraigned before the High Court of Lagos on an information charging them on two counts with the offences of (1) publishing a seditious publication contrary to section 51 (1) (c) of the Criminal Code, and (2) publishing false news likely to cause fear and alarm contrary to section 59 (1) of the Criminal Code. The learned Judge heard the case. At the end of the trial, Counsel for the defendants in his address submitted to the Court, inter alia, that in view of the provisions relating to the entrenchment of Fundamental Human Rights in the Constitution of the Federation, namely section 24, the two sections of the Criminal Code under which the defendants were charged have become null and void as they are ultra vires the Constitution. Counsel for the defendants therefore, as he was entitled to do under the provisions of section 108 of the said Constitution, requested the Judge to refer the point to the Federal Supreme Court for a decision.
The learned trial Judge therefore made no findings on the case before him but adjourned further consideration of the case and final judgment sine die. He then stated that he referred the point raised to this Court.
The procedure by way of reference under section 108 of the Constitution of the Federation is new but it is well to point out, at this stage, that it will be of great assistance to this Court if questions that are referred and are to be decided by the Court are specifically put by the Court below.
I assume the questions referred to this Court for decision are:-
1. Whether the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to seditious publications against the Government as contained in sections 50 and 51 of the Code have been invalidated by the provisions of sections 1 and 24 of the Constitution of the Federation.
2. Whether the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to publication of false news likely to cause fear and alarm to the public as contained in section 59 (1) of the Criminal Code have been invalidated by the provisions of sections 1 and 24 of the Constitution of the Federation.
The point raised under the first question above has been fully considered in an opinion just delivered this morning in F.S.C. 56/1961, in re The Director of Public Prosecutions v. Chike Obi. (Ante p. 186). In view of this decision, it is not proposed to deal fully with the question as it has been made clear in that case that the view taken by this Court is that sections 1 and 24 of the Constitution have not abrogated the Law of Sedition in Nigeria as contained in the provisions of sections 50 and 51 of the Criminal Code in regard to the matter dealt with in that opinion, namely, a seditious publication against the Government.
With regard to the second question, I do not think it necessary to enter into any lengthy consideration of the question presumably posed. Suffice it to say that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federation relating to Fundamental Human Rights guaranteed nothing but ordered freedom and that the section of the Constitution cannot be used as a licence to spread false news likely to cause fear and alarm to the public. In effect, section 59 (1) of the Criminal Code has not been invalidated.
I assume from the record of the case, as it is before us, that these are the two questions on which the learned trial Judge sought the views of this Court.
Other Citation: (1961) LCN/0925(SC)