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JSC ordered to disclose private deliberations of WC judge appointments

In the majority judgment, the Constitutional Court found that a blanket ban on disclosure, rather than a fact-specific case for non-disclosure, is unjustifiable in an open and democratic society.

The Constitutional Court. Picture: Clement Manyathela/EWN

PRETORIA - The Helen Suzman Foundation has won a lengthy six year court battle against the Judicial Services Commission and will now have access to the record of deliberations which led to the appointment of Western Cape judges in 2012.

The foundation challenged the decision to appoint the judges but when they took the matter on review, the commission refused to disclose the deliberations which led to the decision, citing confidentiality.

On Tuesday, the Constitutional Court ordered the JSC deliver the full recording of the proceedings sought to be reviewed.

When the Helen Suzman Foundation challenged the October 2012 decision to appoint certain Western Cape judges, the Judicial Services Commission filed the record of proceedings and the reasons for the decision as prepared by the Chief Justice.

However, it did not file the record of the actual deliberations.

The foundation argued that these recordings were the most relevent evidence of what considerations were factored into the decision-making process.

The JSC argued that it considered such deliberations private and the disclosure thereof would hamper its ability to perform its constitutionally assigned role.

In the majority judgment, the Constitutional Court found that a blanket ban on disclosure, rather than a fact-specific case for non-disclosure, is unjustifiable in an open and democratic society.

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