President can confer silk status on advocates, ConCourt rules

2013-11-28 13:08

The Constitutional Court has held that the president's power to confer honours included the authority to confer silk status on advocates.

The court dismissed an appeal by Devi Mansingh, a practising attorney, who challenged a section of the Constitution related to the president's authority.

She contended that the section on the authority of the president did not include conferring the status of senior counsel on advocates.

Mansingh challenged the section in the North Gauteng High Court, which upheld the application.

The high court found the Constitution did not retain for the president what was once the royal prerogative of awarding silk status to advocates.

The General Council of the Bar and the Johannesburg Society of Advocates took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

The SCA concluded that the president's power to confer honours was wide enough to include the conferral of silk status.

In the Constitutional Court, Mansingh sought to have the decision of the SCA overturned.

In a unanimous judgment, the Constitutional Court held that the SCA was correct in finding that the phrase "conferring honours" meant something conferred or done as a token of respect or distinction.

Mansingh argued that awarding silk did not share the same general characteristics as awarding national orders.

Therefore, it did not fall within the president's honour-conferring powers.

The Constitutional Court concluded that this argument ignored the wide meaning of the word "honours".

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