Pretoria: The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill is expected to enhance organizational efficiency and improve the application of different Acts of Parliament.
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Advocate Michael Masutha will introduce the Bill in Parliament within the next few days.
The Department of Justice and Correctional Services said while the amendments contained in the Bill are mostly technical in nature and seem mundane and without too much significance, their impact collectively will contribute to an improved administration of justice.
“Some amendments will also bring about cost savings. Others will eliminate prevailing uncertainties which have been identified in practice, while others will give impetus to the independence of the Office of the Chief Justice,” the department said.
Some of the Acts the Bill aims to amend include the Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1944, Prescribed Rate of Interest Act, 1975, the Magistrates Act, 1993, the Judicial Service Commission Act, 1994 and the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act, 1996.
Magistrates’ Courts Act
Currently section 9(5) of the Magistrates’ Courts Act, 1944, provides for the appointment of acting magistrates for a period not exceeding three months. The proposed amendment seeks to extend the period of appointment to 12 months.
The department noted that extending the period of appointment from three months to 12 months will create more stability and be less of an administrative burden in making acting appointments at three-monthly intervals.
The period of the acting appointment will also be more in line with the appointment process and bring about continuity where an acting magistrate is appointed to deal with case backlogs.
Prescribed Rate of Interest Act
In order to ensure that the interest rate in the Prescribed Rate of Interest Act reflects prevailing market conditions, the amendments in the Bill propose that the rate of interest will be the repurchase rate, as determined by the SA Reserve Bank from time to time, plus 3.5% per annum.
At present, the Prescribed Rate of Interest Act provides that if a debt bears interest and the rate at which the interest is to be calculated is not governed by any other law, agreement, trade custom or in any other manner, such interest shall be calculated at the rate prescribed by the Minister, after consultation with Finance Minister.
The Minister is furthermore required to publish the amended rate in the Gazette whenever the repurchase rate is adjusted by the SA Reserve Bank.
The Magistrates Act, 1993, is being amended in order to provide for a situation when a magistrate vacates his or her office on account of his or her appointment as a judge.
The proposed amendments are intended to prevent unintended and undue financial implications that may be imposed on the State in the event of a magistrate, who has not reached the age of retirement as provided for in section 19 of the Government Employees Pension Law, 1996, being appointed to the office of a judge.
Judicial Service Commission Act
The Judicial Service Commission Act is being amended by making the Secretary-General of the Office of the Chief Justice the accounting officer for purposes of the Judicial Service Commission, in the place of the Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development.
In similar vein, the South African Judicial Education Institute Act, 2008, is being amended by making the Office of the Chief Justice responsible for the South African Judicial Education Institute.
It also makes Secretary-General of the Office of the Chief Justice the accounting officer of the South African Judicial Education Institute, in the place of the Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development.
Special Investigating Units
The Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act is amended in order to tighten up on the reporting responsibilities of Special Investigation Unit (SIU).
A new provision is to be inserted in this Act. The provision will require the head of the SIU to report to the President and the Cabinet member responsible for the administration of justice on a quarterly basis on progress made in its investigations and matters brought before the Special Tribunal concerned or any court of law.
In addition, the proposed new section gives discretion to the head of the SIU, whenever requested by certain institutions, persons or functionaries, to report on an investigation and matters brought before the Special Tribunal concerned or before any court of law.
Section 384 of the 1955 Criminal Procedure Act is being revoked.
SOURCE: South African Official News