Every person has the right to Administrative Justice. This is a very crucial and important branch of our law, and it controls the powers and functions of many state authorities. However, do you know exactly what this means? And are you aware of the limitations that are placed thereon?
According to the Constitution, Administrative Law is a result of the ‘Separation of Powers Doctrine’ under which the Courts are granted the ability to regulate and control the exercise of public power by other branches of government. Weichers defines Administrative Law as a “body of legal rules governing the administration, organisation, powers and functions of administrative authorities.”
This right has resulted in numerous cases and it may be seen to overlap with the Constitution of South Africa as it deals with the relationship between organs of state and individuals, the biggest difference is the fact that PAJA deals specifically with a particular branch of government (that which deals with public administration) who conducts specific activities, in other words administrative actions.
Decisions made by such branches of government are however, as they affect the public, subject to judicial review. This means that any person or member of the public who is unhappy with an administrative decision may challenge such a decision in a Court of Law. Upon taking there complaint to the Court they will then have the opportunity to argue that the Administrative Decision that was reached violates the rights of the public to justified administration.
Let us say for example that you, or somebody you know, has applied for something like a Social Grant and for some arbitrary reason this application was denied. You would first be required to follow all the internal procedures of appealing their decision through the various bodies of SASSA. However, should this still be unsuccessful you would then have 180 days to apply for Judicial Review.
Should such an argument be successful, and the Court finds the Decision to be unlawful or unreasonable, the Court may make a any number of Orders that would serve to rectify the injustices caused by the decision. Such Orders may include invalidating the Decision in its entirety, ordering the administrator to reconsider their decision, replacing the Administrative Decision with the Courts own decision or even go so far as to make an order that the Government is to pay a sum of damages to the person who has suffered damages by the aforementioned Decision.
This Act is tremendously important as it allows the public to have their rightful say against any Administrative Decisions which may cause a negative impact to them. However, just like all good things in life, there are always conditions. One of which is stipulated in Section 7(1) of PAJA which states that “Any proceedings for Judicial Review in terms of section 6(1) must be instituted without unreasonable delay and not later than 180 days after the date…”
In law, there are however always exceptions to the rule, in this case, if you were to apply for Judicial Review later than that 180 day period you would have to prove that taking the matter on Judicial Review would be in the interests of Justice. For example, Section 9(1) of PAJA states the time periods may be extended by agreement between the Parties, or failing such an agreement, by a Court or Tribunal by way of an Application by the person or administrator concerned.
The purpose of this Act is to prevent Organs of State from abusing the Public by making unlawful and/or unreasonable decisions and further provides you, the individual, the power to challenge these decisions and in your own way promote and protect the Justice System as well as all those who may be adversely affected.