Following this week’s declaration by the Constitutional Court that some rules and parts of certain rules of the National Assembly (NA) were unconstitutional and invalid, the House has moved to ensure that it complies with the judgment.
The NA further appreciates the clarity and legal certainty provided by the Court in relation to its rules.
In terms of the impugned rules, an individual member of the Assembly, irrespective of political party affiliation, had to obtain permission from the House in order to introduce a bill.
The Constitutional Court found that the permission requirement negated the exercise of the member’s power to initiate, prepare and introduce legislation in the NA. The requirement was accordingly found to be unconstitutional and declared invalid.
In defending the matter in Court, the NA sought to obtain clarity and legal certainty on the correct legal interpretation of the constitutional status of its rules. This was occasioned by the recent different interpretation of the relevant rules. The NA has since 1994 applied these rules on the understanding that they were consistent with the Constitution. When the constitutional validity of the relevant rules was challenged in the Western Cape High Court, the Court ruled that they were consistent with the Constitution. The judgment of the Western Cape High Court was appealed against to the Constitutional Court, which Court, by a majority of its judges, found the relevant rules to be inconsistent with the Constitution and declared them invalid.
Members of the Assembly wishing to introduce bills in the NA may now do so, without obtaining the prior approval of the NA. There are sufficient mechanisms in terms of the existing rules to enable members to introduce bills as envisaged in the judgment.
The ruling does not disempower the NA in determining how best to run its affairs. Nor does it negate the constitutional principle of majority decision-making as a legitimate democratic principle. Law-making will still be subjected to the same democratic traditions established in Parliament since 1994.
As a national forum for the public consideration of issues, the NA has always sought to uphold the Constitution and consistently strives to develop rules that are consistent with the Constitution.
The NA, therefore, welcomes the clarity and legal certainty provided by the Court on its rules, since the judgment assists in the efficient administration of the institution.
An overall assessment of the implications of the judgment on capacity, resources, the current structures and mechanisms of Parliament is underway.