Different legal representative at the high court in Pretoria during an application by amaBhungane against Rica's surveillance regulations laws. Photo: Brenda Masilela / ANA

Pretoria - The North Gauteng High court in Pretoria on Monday ruled that bulk surveillance activities done under the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica) are unlawful and invalid.

The judgment stems from an application brought by media group amaBhungane, who had challenged the constitutionality of the act after it learned that one of its investigative journalists, Sam Sole, had been the target of State surveillance under Rica, while investigating the decision by the National Prosecuting Authority to drop corruption charges against former President Jacob Zuma.

amaBhungane had argued that Rica lacked the necessary safeguards to protect the public's right to privacy and felt it necessary that some of its sections should be declared unlawful. The media group also put it before the court that if a subject had been placed under surveillance, they should be notified once the surveillance had been concluded, thereby safeguarding the principle of open justice.

In his judgment on Monday, judge Roland Sutherland said the act failed to adequately prescribe the procedure for notifying a person whose information has been intercepted.

He also stated that the act failed to adequately prescribe the proper procedures to be followed when State officials are examining, copying, sharing and sorting through data obtained through interceptions.

Sutherland added that the act was not clear in situations where the subject of surveillance is either a practising lawyer or a journalist.

He suspended the invalidity of the act for two years to allow Parliament to bring the legislation in line with the Constitution.

African News Agency/ANA