For media comment contact: Judith February, Executive Officer at FUL, 083 453 9817
Freedom Under Law (FUL) is gravely concerned about recent media reports by GroundUp concerning the late delivery of judgments by the Constitutional Court. According to the GroundUp report, of judgments which have been reserved and subsequently handed down by the court since August 2022, 19 judgments were delivered late in terms of the three-month period contained in the judicial norms and standards, and 10 were delivered late measured by GroundUp’s own six-month period. The report further notes that 4 judgments reserved over six months ago remain outstanding.
The report notes that the Constitutional Court website has not been well maintained and does not accurately reflect the status of delivered and pending judgments.
This is not the first time that this issue has received public attention. In February 2023, FUL released a statement expressing concern about reports that the court’s online records were not being properly maintained, and frequently went missing or were not available online prior to hearings. Then we noted that the increasing role of online technology in court functioning, and the importance of access to court documents for open justice, made these shortcomings acutely serious. We urged the court’s leadership to address these concerns with due urgency.
Unfortunately, it appears that, at least insofar as recording the status of judgments on the court’s website is concerned, these issues remain unresolved. For the website of the highest court in the country not to carry up to date and accurate information about the status of cases before the court and judgments delivered by it are troubling. The Constitutional Court must ensure, as an example of its own accountability to the public and consistent with the principle of open justice, that its online records are up to date and accurate.
Delays in delivering timeous judgments have beset the South African judiciary at all levels. Whilst we acknowledge that the scale and complexity of cases before the Constitutional court may sometimes mean judgments are unavoidably delayed, the position revealed by the GroundUp report seems to point to a systemic problem. It is important the court provides a salutary example to the rest of the judiciary by delivering judgments timeously on a consistent basis.
We urge the leadership of the court to ensure that these issues are addressed as a matter of urgency, in order to uphold legitimacy of the court, the rule of law and the judiciary itself.