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High Court rules Rica as unlawful and invalid in South Africa

The RICA act will be suspended for two years which will allow parliament to bring the legislation in line with the constitution.

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The RICA court battle between amaBhungane and former president, Jacob Zuma has been ruled unlawful by Judge Roland Sutherland at the South Gauteng High Court.

RICA was challenged by amaBhungane in 2017

Legal proceedings were established in April 2017, after amaBhungane challenged the constitutionality of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (Rica); after their journalist, Sam Sole’s communications were intercepted while he was reporting on the corruption investigation against the former president, Jacob Zuma.

According to the judgement, bulk surveillance activities are unlawful and invalid; Judge Sutherland declared that the surveillance activities and signals interception undertaken by the National Communications Centre was invalid and unlawful.

Court document states that RICA is inconsistent with the Constitution

The Right2Know and Privacy International organisations joined amaBhungane Centre of Investigating Journalism as allies to declare some sections of the Rica Act unconstitutional and invalid. The organisations declared that surveillance is a violation of rights and demanded an end to the practice at the High Court in Pretoria, earlier this year.

A court document states that RICA is inconsistent with the Constitution and fails to provide the proper procedures to be followed by state officials.

“It is declared that RICA is inconsistent with the Constitution, and accordingly invalid to the extent that it fails to adequately provide for a system with appropriate safeguards; to deal with the fact that orders in question are granted and the declaration of invalidity is suspended for two years to allow Parliament to cure the defect.”

amaBhungane court document

The surveillance interceptions were declared unlawful

The presiding judge granted a win to amaBhungane when it was declared that interceptions were unlawful; it is also declared that RICA was failed to express the circumstances of the subject of surveillance being a journalist or lawyer.

“The application for the order concerned must disclose and draw to the designated judge’s attention, that the subject who is a journalist or practising legal practitioner. “

amaBhungane court document

The document further states that a designated judge should only grant the order sought if satisfied that it is necessary and appropriate, even though the subject is a journalist. Furthermore, the order prescribed that Judge Sutherland can include conditions and limitations that he may deem necessary for the matter at hand.

The civil society group Right2Know announced that the judgement essentially means that bulk surveillance activities are now unlawful and invalid in South Africa.

“We congratulate amaBhungane and the legal team and we are happy that this will bring an end to surveillance abuses.”