Secrecy Bill – you can approach Constitutional Court

2011-11-23 07:47

South Africans have the right to bring the Protection of State Information Bill before the Constitutional Court if they feel it is impinging on their rights, former Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan said yesterday.

“If people feel the bill is inconsistent with the Constitution, then they have a constitutional right to challenge those provisions before the court,” she said.

O’Regan was speaking at the yearly Helen Suzman memorial lecture in Johannesburg.

She said the Constitution Court was unique in that it provided a system whereby it could check the constitutional validity of legislation, while still being held accountable.

“The court does not define policy... but different legal tools can be used to implement policy,” she said.

Currently all policy must comply with three constitutional restraints: compliance with legality, rationality and the Bill of Rights.

“The function of the court when determining challenges to legislation based on the Bill of Rights is two-fold,” O’Regan said.

“Most obviously, it serves as the guardian of fundamental rights, and less obviously and as importantly, it serves to create a forum for public debate about the reasons for the state’s exercise of public power.”

O’Regan said she would not comment on whether the information bill could be regarded as unconstitutional, as she had not read it.

The National Assembly approved the bill yesterday despite widespread opposition and questions around its constitutionality.

The Helen Suzman Foundation said the bill would undermine the constitutional democracy of the country.

“The bill cannot credibly be described as in South Africa’s best interests,” it said in a statement on Monday.

“Instead it is a case of political expediency triumphing over constitutional rights. It marks the beginning of policy being driven by a secretive and self-serving security cluster.”

The University of the Witwatersrand said on Monday that the bill attacked key principles that underpin a democracy, such as access to information and freedom of speech, and would threaten the country’s widely admired constitutional order.

“The university expresses its deep concern at the implications of these measures for civil liberties and the pursuit of intellectual enquiry, and insists that, in their current form, they be abandoned,” it said in a statement.

With the bill passed, media would not be able to claim it acted in the pubic interest if it violated or was party to the violation of a law, or published classified information to substantiate a report on, for example, malpractice or corruption in government.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/Sport

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.