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The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Amendment Bill in its current form will satisfy constitutional requirements, the Portfolio Committee on Transport heard on Wednesday.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Dikeledi Magadzi, clarified that the Bill is a section 76 Bill and will require the concurrence of the National Council of Provinces after tabling in the National Assembly.

The State Law Advisor, Advocate Mongameli Kweta, said although the amendment was limiting, the option to go to court about a Tribunal verdict was still available. “A person would still go to the high court after the Tribunal process. I am sure this Bill would pass the constitutional master,” he said.

Committee Member Mr Manny de Freitas raised concerns about the definition of “infringement” and representations, and said the amendments may prove to be unconstitutional in terms of section 34 of the Constitution. He said in terms of section 35, an accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to a public trial before an ordinary court to adduce and challenge evidence.

“Although the Bill does not take away an alleged offenders’ right to approach a court, it is alarming that the right is not mentioned in the notice served on alleged offenders. The Amendment Bill purports to remove an alleged infringer’s right to approach a court until such a time that a courtesy letter has been issued,” he said.

The Parliamentary Legal Advisor, Advocate Noluthando Mpikashe, said the fact that the Act establishes a Tribunal does not take away the right to approach a court of law. “People still have a right to go to court and therefore Section 35 does not apply, as one is not an accused person but an infringer. The court does not have to prove innocence,” she said.

The Committee met over the past two days to deliberate on the AARTO Amendment Bill clause by clause. Members sought clarity on such issues as the demerit system, impounding of vehicles, offending drivers who have no addresses, sittings and quorum of the tribunal, and fee payments.

Road Traffic Infringement Agency’s executive, Mr Japh Chuwe, said the infringements will be serious contraventions that will be dealt with by the courts. “Depending on the transgression, it would be treated as an offence or violation. AARTO is an administrative process in itself and we want to administer it efficiently and effectively. If an infringer tries to go to court, the court would bring it back to the traffic administration,” he said.

Committee Member Mr Sibusiso Radebe said the ANC agreed with the amendments, while the Mr De Freitas said he will take it to the DA’s caucus for a final decision.

Sibongile Maputi

28 June 2017