‘Secrecy Bill’ can go the ConCourt route in two ways

2013-04-30 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The opposition is going to employ both ways allowed by the Constitution to try to persuade President Jacob Zuma not to sign the Secrecy Bill.

Article 79 of the Constitution sets out options that can be used before a bill is signed and Article 80 lists steps to follow after signing. Article 79 allows the president to refer any bill to the National Assembly and possibly the National Council of Provinces if he has reservations about its constitutionality.

Democratic Alliance federal chair James Selfe confirmed yesterday that a letter would be sent to Zuma urging him to exercise that option so that Parliament can reconsider the Protection of State Information Bill.

The presidency said yesterday afternoon that the bill had not yet been received from Parliament for consideration.

Government sources have indicated that although Zuma is unwilling to refer the bill to the Constitutional Court, his legal advisers will work through it carefully and refer it back to Parliament if the presidency decides it doesn’t comply with the provisions of the Constitution.

Article 79 also sets out that if Parliament reconsiders the bill and the president is still not satisfied, he can refer it to the court to decide on its constitutionality before he signs it into law.

If the court decides the bill is constitutional, the president would be obliged to sign it.

If Zuma signs the bill without referring it to Parliament or the court, Article 80 stipulates that at least one-third of the members of the National Assembly can ask the court to decide on its constitutionality, within 30 days of the bill being signed.

The court can declare the law, or part of it, invalid pending its ruling, but only in the interests of justice, or if there is a reasonable chance that MPs’ application will be successful.

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