Judge­ment re­served in rights case

Lesotho Times - - News - Tefo Tefo

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 earli- er 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.

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

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