The role and impact of the judiciary in the law-making process in South Africa
Ngandwe, Phazha Jimmy
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There exists a lacuna in our legal system, the role of the judiciary in the lawmaking process is not well defined. 'Historically, the judiciary has always claimed that its duty was merely to interpret and apply the law and that it was not within its province to legislate.' Custom and practice on the other hand has revealed that. to some extent, this is not entirely true. Because through precedents and pronouncements of statutes unconstitutional and therefore, null and void, the former in that sense makes laws and is practically involved in the law-making process. • Judicial discretion is another means at the disposal of the judiciary by which the latter legislates." Therefore, the notion that the province of the judiciary is only confined to the interpretation and application of the law is overwhelmingly misleading. The role of the judiciary in the law making process has to be clearly defined and not just to be inferred so that there is left no middle ground or grey area between its involvement and non-involvement. Once this is done, the problem of uncertainty and inconsistency in so far as the judicial process is concerned will be remedied. Since it is indeed the judiciary that decides the cases before them, from these cases it is respectfully submitted that the interpretative process they adopt in arriving at their decision itself amounts to law-making. It is trite law that when courts interpret the law. they also make the law in that process. This reasoning has long been accepted in our legal order and in foreign jurisdictions. The former President of the United States of America, Roosevelt. precisely pointed out in his message to the Congress of the United States on the 8th December 1908, thus: The Chief lawmakers in our country may be. and often are, the judges. because they are the final seat of authority. Every time they interpret contract. property, vested rights, due process of the law. liberty, they necessarily enact into law parts of a system of social philosophy; and as such interpretation is fundamental. they give direction to all lawmaking. The decisions of the courts on economic and social questions depend upon their economic and social philosophy; and for the peaceful progress of our people during the twentieth century we shall owe most to those judges who hold to a twentieth century economic and social philosophy and not to a long outgrown philosophy, which was itself the product of primitive economic conditions. 1 Even though the above quote was said in the last century, it is still applicable today because judges still do the job of interpreting and applying the law. In doing so they are involved in the law-making process. It has become manifest, as this study will reveal, that Ihe judiciary is involved in the law-making process even though this has proven somewhat irksome to 1 PresidenlTheodore Roosevelt, Message to the Congress of the United States, 8th December 1908, 43rd Congressional Record ,Part 1, p.21 . accept and appreciate, bearing in mind the overriding democratic principles such as seoaration of DOwers and the independence of the judiciary .. Therefore this study endeavours to interrogate the manner by which the South African judiciary has been involved in the law-making process both during the previous apartheid regime and in the present democratic dispensation. Futhermore, this study also attempts to answer the question as to how the judiciary will continue to legislate in the present judicial transformation process without upsetting the imperatives of the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.
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