20 August 2009

SAHA Welcomes Constitutional Court Judgement

On 13 July 2009 the Constitutional Court handed down their judgment in the case of Brummer vs. the Minister of Social Development; a case in which SAHA were Amicus Curiae. The court ruled that section 78(2) of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) is unconstitutional.

Section 78(2) of PAIA stipulates that in the event that an internal appeal is denied, litigation has to be instigated within 30 days of notification as to outcome of the internal appeal being received. The constitutional court ruled that 30 days is an inadequate amount of time to consult lawyers, raise the necessary funds and, in the case of NGO's, attain board approval to litigate. The court further ruled that by being unrealistically brief, the section served to deprive people of their rights to information as well as of access to the courts.

The court ordered that the governemt is required to amend the section in question within 18 months. In the mean time, until the goverment makes the required amnedment, the court granted PAIA users 180 days in which to initiate litigation, subsequent to being informed of the outcome of an internal appeal.

The case arose after Mail and Guardian journalist, Stephans Brummer, failed to initiate litigation - subsequent to the Department of Social Development denying Brummer acces to records he had requested - within thirty days.