The Road Traffic Infringement Agency (RTIA), which is tasked with administering the controversial Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences (AARTO) Act, will on April 20 ask leave to appeal a court judgement that it says “raises extremely important issues not only of a legal nature but, indeed, of practical consideration too”.
In its application for leave to appeal the earlier High Court judgement in favour of fines administrator Fines4U, the RTIA says the judgement, “if permitted to stand, will open up a Pandora’s Box which, in turn, will invite a plethora of litigation.”
Moneyweb in February reported that judge Bill Prinsloo ordered hundreds of fines before the court that were earlier issued to Fines4U client Audi Johannesburg, to be set aside due to the RTIA’s biased, irrational and unauthorized rejection of representations Fines4U made to it to have the fines cancelled.
Fines4U owner Cornelia van Niekerk then told Moneyweb “The same failures apply to millions of traffic fines issued in Johannesburg and Pretoria since 2008. Some have been paid by vehicle owners to avoid a block on their vehicle and driver’s license renewals, while others are still pending and recorded against the alleged transgressor on the National Contravention Register (NCR).
She called on the RTIA to cancel all fines affected by the same defects.
In its application for leave to appeal the RTIA does not spell out the practical effects of the ruling described as a “Pandora’s Box”.
Instead in a move it admits is “somewhat unorthodox”, it attaches three newspaper articles to the application. The RTIA states: “Indeed, a number of newspapers have already been reporting on the anticipated consequences and ramifications of the judgement. The consequences of the judgement, if the anticipated events written about materialize, will be highly prejudicial not only to the RTIA and road traffic enforcement specifically, but indeed to the broader interests inherent in the administration of justice more generally.”
The RTIA does not further explain this statement, but proceeds to explain the basis for its application.
It questions the court’s finding that the decisions were reviewable on the basis of bias and irrationality. It relies on its internal Operating Manual. The manual does not provide for the cancellation of fines on the basis that the authorities failed to follow the processes prescribed by the Aarto Act. It only considers challenges to the merits of the alleged traffic infringement.
Prinsloo ruled that this provision in the Manual contradicts the Act, but the RTIA argues the Act gives it wide powers to decide which grounds for representations are reasonable.
The RTIA further admits that it did not follow the procedures described in the Act, and therefore agrees that the decisions to reject Fines4U’s representations, was reviewable. It however questions the remedy of having the decisions set aside.
It cites other court rulings that indicate legality may be overwritten by practicality.
The RTIA argues that there is no need to set aside the fines before court since it had already given an undertaking that it would not issue enforcement orders in relation to the affected fines.
It further states that the court did not take into account that the National Contravention Register (NCR) does not provide for fines to be removed without trace. Instead, it allows it to be cancelled, showing both the original entry and the cancellation. Enforcement orders cannot be issued after a fine has been cancelled.
The RTIA denies that the traces of the fines that remain on the NCR could amount to a violation of the infringer’s reputation, since Fines4U is a “voluntary association representing the interests of a corporate client” and only human beings can have their dignity impaired.
According to the RTIA no harm is done if all the entries remain on the NCR. It says a declaration that the decisions were unlawful rather than setting it aside, would be sufficient.
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