Industry welcomes Aarto victory

Industry welcomes Aarto victory

The Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto) was both ‘unconstitutional and invalid’ the Pretoria High Court ruled on Thursday.

It ruled that both the Aarto Act and the Aarto Amendment Act were unconstitutional and ordered the first and third respondents, the minister of transport and the Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), to pay the legal costs of the applicant, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

Outa had challenged the constitutional validity of Aarto and the Aarto Amendment Act, and asked the court in October 2021 to declare both the main act and the amendment act unconstitutional. 

Judge Annali Basson agreed with Outa’s position that the legislation unlawfully intruded upon the exclusive executive and legislative competence of the local and provincial governments envisaged in the Constitution, preventing local and provincial governments from regulating their own affairs. 

The respondents in the case were the minister of transport, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs, RTIA, and the Appeals Tribunal. 

Outa has raised its concerns and objections about the Aarto Act and the published Aarto Amendment Act for a number of years, and shared its concerns with relevant authorities before the Amendment Act was published.  The organisation said it believed that these pieces of traffic legislation were unconstitutional and would also not assist with curbing road traffic fatalities in South Africa. 

Judge Basson concluded in her judgement: “It therefore follows in my view that the Aarto Act and the Amendment Act must be declared to be inconsistent with the Constitution in its entirety. It is therefore declared that the Aarto Act and the Amendment Acts are unconstitutional and invalid.”

Advocate Stefanie Fick, executive director of the accountability and governance divisions at Outa, said the organisation was “very pleased” with the court’s decision.

“Outa believes that Aarto in its current format does nothing to improve road safety, nor does it reduce the scourge of road fatalities in South Africa. We are satisfied that the judgment will be sending government back to the drawing board. This time around, we trust the relevant departments will engage meaningfully with civil society to obtain our input when developing such important policies for the country,” Fick said.

She added that the judgment signalled another important win for civil society, which indicated that the government was out of touch with reality. 

“It is unfortunate that government once again chose to ignore valid concerns and well-researched input, and pushed ahead with the amendment. Not only did they waste a lot of time, but also valid resources, as the Aarto roll-out will have to be stopped while the act is once again amended and taken through the legislative process. Only then can it be implemented,” Fick said.

However, the battle to protect motorists from the ill-conceived act was not yet over, she added. Read more here 

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