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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court will hear an application on Thursday for leave to appeal against a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal authorising President Jacob Zuma to confer the status of senior counsel on practising advocates.
Urmilla Roshnee Devi Mansingh, a practising attorney and member of the Johannesburg Society of Advocates (JSA), seeks an order declaring that Zuma's power to confer honours in terms of section 84(2) of the Constitution does not include the power to confer senior counsel status on practising advocates.
The General Council of the Bar (GCB) and the JSA would oppose the application.
The status of senior counsel is conferred on an advocate by a sitting president, acting on the recommendation of the justice minister.
The case arose in the High Court in Pretoria where Mansingh brought an application that section 84 of the Constitution does not include the prerogative power to confer the status of senior counsel (commonly known as 'silk') on practising advocates.
Mansingh’s case was based on the grounds that the Constitution is intended to sever relations with the past, and as such the past practice of conferral of silk status as a prerogative power is of no importance.
The court should look to indications which compel a meaning of honours which deviates from the provision's historical background.
Mansingh won in the high court. The GCB lodged an appeal at the SCA, which overturned the high court ruling in March.
The SCA found that section 84 allows Zuma to confer, as an honour, the status of senior counsel on practising advocates.
Mansingh will argue that the SCA lost sight of the fact that silk status is a certification of professional quality awarded by way of letters patent (a president's written order) Ä not an honour.