From February next year, litigants – especially big corporates and financial institutions – will no longer simply be able to haul the public before the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) when it is convenient for them. A Pretoria News report says a full Bench – led by Pretoria Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba – ruled that from 2 February, civil actions, where the monetary value claimed was within the jurisdiction of the Magistrate’s Courts, should be instituted in those forums.

This is unless the High Court has granted leave to hear the matter in this court. It was also declared that a High Court was entitled to transfer a matter to any of the other High Courts if it was in the interest of justice and closer for the parties involved.

In what the Pretoria News calls this ‘ground-breaking’ judgment delivered yesterday, the three judges – Ledwaba, Judge Ronel Tolmay and Judge Billy Mothle – firmly put their collective foot down against big institutions, especially, which could simply haul the often cash-strapped public before a High Court far from where they hailed because it was easier for the financial giants.

Tolmay, who delivered the judgment, said there was an increasing tendency by litigants – mainly banks and other commercial institutions – to enrol matters in the High Court when it fell within the lower courts’ jurisdiction. Another problem was that many cases were enrolled in the Gauteng High Court (Pretoria), even if the parties lived in other regions.

The result is the court roll in this division is so congested that matters which legitimately belong there were held up as cases had to wait.

Tolmay said there was an obligation on the courts to ensure access to justice for everyone. ‘Legal costs are unaffordable, even to the middle class.’ She urged banks to adjust their thinking.

Full Pretoria News report