A PANEL of three top High Court judges yesterday indefinitely reserved judgement in a case in which Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and Development for Peace Education (DPE) are challenging the enactment of the Human Rights Commission law.
The three judges, Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara, Justices Tšeliso Monaphathi and Semapo Peete reserved judgement after the lawyer representing the two prominent civic groups, Advocate Hoolo ‘Nyane and King’s Counsel Motiea Teele, who represented the Speaker of the National assembly and other respondents, finished their day-long argument in court yesterday.
In his address, Advocate ‘Nyane argued the National Assembly erred in passing the Human Rights Commission Bill without allowing public participation before the law was enacted.
He also complained that the Clerk of the National Assembly recalled the Bill from Senate even before the Senate could deal with the Bill.
He argued it was an error on the part of the National Assembly.
“There are two procedural errors committed by the National Assembly,” he said.
He told the court that the National Assembly ignored some of its Standing Orders which provide for public participation before the bills could be passed into law.
But, Chief Justice Majara and Justice Monaphathi pointed out that the said provisions clearly state that public participation may be conducted where necessary.
Advocate ‘Nyane further argued it was “wrong for the Clerk to recall the Bill from Senate while the end of the session of Parliament was not yet envisaged.”
Similarly on this point the court took him to task to explain if the bill had not spent a long time in Senate without being dealt with.
He was asked when the Bill was presented to Senate and when it was recalled by the Clerk of the National Assembly.
He said: “The bill was sent to Senate on the 9th December 2015 and it was recalled on the 20th of April 2016. It was before the Senate could consider it.”
On the other hand Advocate Teele KC urged the court to dismiss the application on the grounds that the two civic groups have no clear right to seek for participation before the bill could be enacted into law.
He argued that the specific provision that talks about public participation refers to individuals not associations.
“The law speaks about citizens and nationals. By citizens we refer to individual natural people, while nationals refer to bodies like the applicants before court.
“And the applicants cannot claim any right regarding public participation.
“They don’t have a locus standi to bring this application before court,” he said.
During the argument, Advocate ‘Nyane conceded that the two civic groups had earlier submitted their views about the Human Rights Commission law to the Ministry of Law before the bill was sent to parliament.
The court said it would take some time to deliver judgement.
However, the court said judgement would be delivered any time before Christmas this year.
TRC and DPE filed this application in court in August this year.
The two civil society groups are challenging the legality of the Human Rights Commission Act No. 2 of 2016.
The two societies want the court to nullify the act complaining about the withdrawal of its bill from the Senate before it could be disposed of by the Senate.
The civil society groups cite National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai; Senate President Prince Seeiso Bereng Seeiso; National Assembly Clerk King’s Counsel (KC) Fine Maema; Law, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs Minister Motlalentoa Letšosa; Senate; National Assembly; National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Law and Public Safety; King Letsie III and Attorney-General Tšokolo Makhethe KC as first to ninth respondents, respectively.