How to Approach the Student Court Step-by-Step Guide:
1. Confirm that your matter falls within the jurisdiction of the Court
The jurisdiction of a court is refers to the matters that the court is able to decide on. Because the Student Court is created by the Student Constitution; it is only able to decide on matters that the Student Constitution specifies fall within their jurisdiction.
Section 36 of the Student Constitution empowers all students or student bodies to approach the Court, however, it is still important to check that the application falls within the substantive jurisdiction of the Court.
Section 84 of the Student Constitution sets out all of the different matters that may fall within the Court's jurisdiction:
a. The Student Court can decide on the interpretation of a provision in the Student Constitution or other policy documents (such as the constitutions of societies, residences and PSOs) which empower a student body to take action.
b. The Student Court can decide when any action or failure to take action by a student or student body is consistent with the Student Constitution or other constitution relevant to that student or student body's actions.
c. The Student Court can review and decide on the validity of a decision taken by a student body which has a negative effect on rights or expectations of the student body.
d. The Student Court can decide any matter raised by two parties where the parties consent to the Student Court resolving their dispute.
e. The Student Court can decide on any other matters that the Student Constitution explicitly requires it to such as authorising amendments to student bodies' constitutions. These provisions are to be found in the parts of the Student Constitution dealing with the actions of those bodies.
2. Confirm that what you want the Court to do is something that they can actually do
Because Student Court is a body created by the Student Constitution, it can only take action if that act is provided for in the Student Constitution. The Student Constitution lists the kinds of remedies the Student Court can actually order. Make sure that what you are asking the Court to do falls within that list.
The Student Court can:
a. Grant an interdict to prevent a student or student body from taking an action that may result in harm;
b. Grant an order which provides clarity on what a provision in a student constitution means;
c. Set aside a decision or action taken by a student body which is inconsistent with the Student Constitution or any other set of rules relevant to that body and make an order regarding how that set aside order will work practically; and
d. Grant any other order which is fair and equitable.
3. Start drafting your application
Once you have checked that you can actually approach the Court, you need to then draft your application.
The Student Court conducts hearings which means that students wanting to approach the Court provide certain documents to the Court which set out the arguments they rely on and the evidence that backs up those arguments.
The Stellenbosch University Student Court Rules of Procedure sets out what documents need to be submitted to the Court.
To start an application before the Court, the prospective applicant must start the process by submitting:
a. A notice of motion which just explains that the applicant intends to approach the Court to obtain a particular remedy and how they wish to receive communication from the Court and the opposing party or parties in the future; and
b. A founding affidavit which is a document which sets out the arguments the applicant relies on. It is important that those arguments address:
i. Why the Student Court has jurisdiction over the matter;
ii. What the facts are that gave rise to the dispute which the applicant relies on;
iii. How the opposing party has allegedly contravened the rules that the applicant relies on; and
iv. Why the particular remedy they are requesting is suitable in the circumstances of the particular case.
All of these documents must be emailed to the Student Court and you must ensure that the opposing party (the party against whom you are seeking the remedy) is CC-ed to that email.
These documents are all legal documents. But don't panic! Attached is an example of what a notice of motion and a founding affidavit looks like, as well as templates that you can use for each.
The Student Court has also compiled a list of law students who have offered up their services in providing assistance to applicants wanting to approach the Court. You are welcome to consult one of these students.
4. Wait to receive the opposing party's documents
Once you have submitted your documents to the Student Court via email, the opposing party who also received the founding documents is given the chance to respond.
The opposing party will then need to file their notice of intention to oppose and their responding affidavit in the same manner as the applicant.
5. Further documents
The Court will then direct you regarding what other documents may be required prior to the matter being scheduled for a hearing before the Court Bench.
6. Scheduling a hearing
The matter will then be set down to be heard by the Court.
The hearing will give each party the chance to make oral submissions before the Court and will give the Court the opportunity to ask the parties questions to try and determine the essence of the parties' arguments.
The Court will then deliberate on the matter and determine how to interpret the rules that are relevant to a particular dispute and determine how it applies to the facts before them. While interpreting and applying the rules, the Court follows a purposive and contextual approach. This means that they look at the rules in context, analysing the purpose the fulfil. They will also give regard to the Student Constitution in its entirety and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa to ensure that the constitutional values both are founded on are given effect to in the application of the law.
In terms of section 89 of the Student Court, the decisions of the Court are binding which means that they resolve the dispute with finality.
8. Instituting an appeal
While the decision of the Court is binding, Chapter 7 of the Student Court creates the Appeal Court to whom a judgement from the Student Court can be appealed or set for review.
The procedure to be followed there mirrors the procedure followed in approaching the Student Court.
Student Court Rules of Procedure 2020.pdf
Notice of Motion 2022.docx
Founding Affidavit 2022.docx
Notice of intention to oppose 2022.docx
Answering Affidavit 2022.docx
Replying Affidavit 2022.docx