1. What is the Student Court and what does it do?
The Student Court is an institution established in terms of section 3(3) of the Student Constitution alongside other student governance structures. Section 58(1)(a) characterise this court as an administrative tribunal. This means that the court's main functions are administrative and it adjudicates, inter alia, on cases of alleged procedural inconsistencies with any policy document and it also resolves conflicts and impasses within and between all student governance structures. Where a certain provision in the Student Constitution or any other policy document is impugned, the court has the final jurisdiction to decide on the final interpretation of such a provision. The court reviews and amends constitutions and issues declaratory orders affirming, revising or overturning the actions of student bodies. To this end, this court enforces the rights of all SU Students within the limits of its jurisdiction.
2. How are the Student Court Justices appointed?
The Student Court bench is comprised of 5 Justices including the Chief Justice and the Deputy Chief Justice. All justices are appointed annually by the Law Faculty Board after considering all applications. The application window coincides with the fourth term of every academic year and duties commence the following year. In the latter year, the applicant must at least be in their penultimate year of LLB studies or must be admitted into the 2 years LLM degree program and be in the first year thereof.
3. What is the jurisdiction of this court?
Section 65 of the Student Constitution answers this question in detail. In short, this court is competent to pronounce on what should be the proper interpretation of the law as enshrined in various policy documents including the Student Constitution. Further, this court is enjoined to pronounce on the constitutionality of the commissions or omissions of a student body and or its member(s). This often takes the form of declaratory orders that delineate and delimit, where necessary, the duties of a student body and its member(s).
The Student Court has the power to review any decision of a student body or a member thereof whereby the rights or legitimate expectations of a student or group of students are materially and adversely affected. The court can decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear a case brought before it and must hear all matters which the Student Constitution places under its jurisdiction.
Pursuant to the exposition above, the court's main function is to resolve administrative issues that arise from the student governance structures and their constituencies. It is also worthwhile to mention that this court does not purport to countervail or usurp the powers of the ordinary courts of the land as established in terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Instead, this court resolves matters that are within its exclusive jurisdiction and that pertain to the day to day business of the university.
4. What are the powers of this court?
- Acting within the ambit of its jurisdiction, the court may declare any constitution, decision or conduct (commissions and/or omission) to be inconsistent with the relevant policy document of the university or that such a document is inconsistent with the Student Constitution or that a certain provision of the Student Constitution is inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.
- The decision of the court may be subjected to an appeal or review in terms of section 73 of the Student Constitution.
- The Court must prescribe an appropriate remedy and corrective steps to the parties before it.
5. Are the decisions of the Student Court final?
Yes. However, any decision by the Student Court may be appealed or reviewed by the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court consists of two lecturers of the Law Faculty who are appointed by the Dean of this Faculty. This therefore means that no one may ignore an order of the Court at whim without having such an order reviewed or overturned by the Appeal Court.
6. Who can approach the court (also known as standing)?
- Student organisations (SRC, Student Parliament, Societies Council and Societies);
- And any other body that the constitution or the Student Court deems to have standing
7. How to approach the court?
In your application to have a matter heard by Student Court, you will need to draft:
- A notice of motion.
This is a document that serves to inform the court and the respondent that an application
will be made on a specified date, at a specified time at Student Court, and specifies the
- One or more supporting affidavits.
These record certain facts under oath, which the court will then consider in determining
whether or not to grant the application.
- Optional addendums.
These documents must then be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Should you need to submit
anything additional, the Student Court will advise you accordingly. The Student Court will also notify
the Respondent/s and request necessary documents.
8. Is legal representation allowed?
Section 69 of the Student Constitution stipulates that any party before the Student Court may appear before the Student Court with or without representation and only students may act as representatives before the Student Court.
9. What is the standard of proof?
The standard of proof in all trials is on a balance of probabilities.
10. How does the court arrive at its decisions?
The Student Court Bench consists of well-trained Justices who have demonstrated academically and otherwise that they have what it takes to take on the responsibility placed on them by the court. The Justices apply the law purposively and in a manner that advances and promotes the values enshrined in the Student Constitution and the Constitution of the Republic. All the interpretive techniques that are used in the ordinary courts are also employed to their full effect in this court. This court is bound by its precedent to the extent which the factual matrix and legal question of the case at issue is materially the same with one that has been decided. This is in keeping with the doctrine of stare decisis which ensures that there is legal certainty. However, deviations may be made where circumstances such as public policy permits.
11. How will the decisions be presented?
All court decisions shall be in writing, well substantiated, signed by all members of the court and uploaded unto the website as soon as they are handed down.