Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
It is anticipated that the Superior Courts Bill, 2010, will be tabled in the National Assembly when Parliament reconvenes.
It received cabinet approval in December 2010.
The bill will be processed in tandem with the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2010, which – according to a summary of the bill provided as an addendum to the cabinet statement – amongst other things seeks to provide a “constitutional basis” for furthering the transformation of the judicial system.
A forerunner to the Superior Courts Bill, 2010, was introduced to the National Assembly in August 2003. Nearly three years later, the then parliamentary portfolio committee on justice and constitutional affairs invited members of the public to comment on the bill’s contents.
According to a memorandum on the objects of the draft bill of 2010, “extensive public hearings” ensued with “substantial inputs from a wide range of parties”. While the related Constitution Amendment Bill of 2003 was “allowed to lapse”, the development of the legislation continued. A draft Constitution (Fourteenth) Amendment Bill was published in December 2005 with a view to introducing a “comprehensively revised version of the Superior Courts Bill”. Further public hearings took place during 2006, when it became clear that government’s broad policy guidelines for transforming South Africa’s courts and judiciary required further work
As a result, the Constitution (Fourteenth) Amendment Bill was withdrawn and the processing of the Superior Courts Bill, 2003, “put on hold”.
In November 2007 Parliament’s Joint Programme Committee granted an extension on the bill, which lapsed in May 2009.
In May 2010 minister of justice and constitutional development, Jeff Radebe, announced his intention to introduce “Superior Courts Bill, 2010” to the National Assembly. A new draft bill accompanied this announcement in Government Gazette 33216.
According to the gazette, the aim of Superior Courts Bill, 2010, bill is to:
· rationalise, consolidate and amend the laws relating to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal and the High Court of South Africa;
· incorporate “certain specialist courts” into the High Court;
· make provision for the administration of the judicial functions of all courts;
· make provision for administrative and budgetary matters relating to the superior courts; and to
· provide for matters incidental to the functioning of the superior courts.
In terms of section 2(c) of the draft bill, provision is made for “the adjudication of matters relating to competition appeals, electoral disputes, tax matters, labour disputes and land claims by the superior courts”. The memorandum on the objects of the bill states that existing specialist courts “similar in status to the High Court” will be incorporated into the High Court as specialist divisions.
Once enacted, the bill will give effect to item 16(6) of schedule 6 of the Constitution in terms of which all courts must be rationalised with a view to establishing a single, integrated judicial system that is accessible and affordable.
Sabinet Cape Town Office