Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the Mail & Guardian on Thursday saying 30 days was too short a time limit to lodge a court challenge after a failed application for information for a story it was working on.
Handing down judgment, Judge Sandile Ngcobo said by unanimous decision the court decided to replace the 30 day limit set down in the Promotion of Access to Information Act with 180 days.
This would stay in place as an interim measure until Parliament corrected section 78.2 of the Act which set down that time period.
Investigative journalist Stefaans Brummer had sought information from the department of social development about a tender, and was refused.
An appeal to the minister was likewise turned down, and though Brummer then approached the Cape High Court, this was done outside the 30-day period laid down by the Act.
The high court refused to condone his non-compliance with the 30-day period, but found that the section of the law was unconstitutional as it did not give a person adequate time to approach a court for relief.
Brummer then asked the Constitutional Court to confirm this, and to overturn the high court's refusal to condone his non-compliance with the 30-day period.
The court ordered that "30 days" in Section 78.2 was inconsistent with the Constitution and was declared invalid.
They were replaced with the words "180 days" from when a requester receives notice of a decision, as an interim measure until Parliament changes it.
And, that Section 77.5, which refers to two time periods of 30 days and 60 days, also be altered to 180 days.
Ngcobo said access to information was crucial to accurate reporting and that the limitation of 30 days was not justifiable.
One of the friends of the court, the SA Archives Trust had told the court that the 30-day limit was almost impossible to comply with and it inevitably led to additional costs when applying for condonation of filing outside this period.
Ngcobo said the 30-days limited the right to access to court and the right to access to information. - Sapa