The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) is to decide today whether to
apply for a court order compelling the Judicial Service Commission
(JSC) to open its inquiry into complaints involving the country's top
constitutional court justices and Western Cape Judge President John
Hlophe, writes Bonile Ngqiyaza in The Star.

The institute was discussing filing a joint application with media groups for the decision to be reviewed by the high court, FXI director Jane Duncan said.

Independent Newspapers, the Mail and Guardian, and Avusa were among the media groups that originally made submissions to the JSC arguing for the inquiry to be open to the public.

The inquiry follows the Constitutional Court's complaint to the JSC last year that Hlophe tried to influence Justice Bess Nkabinde and Acting Justice Chris Jafta in a matter relating to ANC leader Jacob Zuma.

Justice Department spokesman Zolile Nqayi confirmed that the inquiry, scheduled to begin on April 1 and end on April 8, would be closed to the media and public.

There is uncertainty, however, about whether the inquiry will take place next month.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has yet to hand down judgment on last week's appeal by the Constitutional Court justices involved in the complaint against Hlophe.

They were appealing a Johannesburg High Court finding that they infringed Hlophe's right to dignity and equal treatment when they issued a statement to the media without first seeking the judge president's representations.

Duncan said the decision to hold the inquiry behind closed doors was disappointing.

"It goes against the principle of open justice as required by the constitution," she said .