Neeman to float bill letting Knesset override court

Neeman proposing new bil

November 5, 2009 05:10
2 minute read.

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman will soon submit a bill that would allow the Knesset to ignore High Court decisions nullifying legislation that it deems unconstitutional, he said earlier this week. A similar, but more draconian measure that had been submitted by former justice minister Daniel Friedmann was approved in the cabinet by a vote of 13 to 12, but was not brought to the Knesset because of the strong opposition to it. Neeman's announcement to introduce the controversial bill comes at a time when he is already under fire for pushing to split the functions currently held by the attorney-general into two separate positions. During a symposium held at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday, Neeman said it had proven impossible to win Knesset approval for an all-encompassing constitution. Instead, the Knesset should advance a written constitution incrementally, gradually legislating one chapter after another. "I think the first law we should pass should be part of the first chapter, dealing with legislation - how to legislate, what the power of the Supreme Court to overrule legislation should be and how parliament can override the Supreme Court," said Neeman. "I think that is the most important part." The justice minister added that a draft of the legislation he intended to pass already existed. In 2002, Neeman headed a committee appointed by prime minister Ariel Sharon to propose a law that would deal with the controversial question of judicial review of Knesset laws. The committee prepared a draft entitled Basic Law: The Judiciary (Amendment - Judicial Review of the Validity of Laws.) But the bill was eventually shelved. Now, Neeman intends to revive it. The proposal has two basic aims. The first is to assert that only the Supreme Court may reject Knesset legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The second is to empower the Knesset to override a Supreme Court decision to nullify a Knesset law. According to the bill, after the Knesset has studied the High Court's decision, it may re-approve the law on condition that a minimum of 70 MKs support it. In March 2007, newly appointed minister Friedmann's initiative to present similar legislation met with a storm of controversy. His bill, however, was more draconian than Neeman's. In his original draft, he proposed that a majority of 61 MKs was sufficient to override a High Court decision. Later, he increased the required majority to 66. Friedmann's bill also stipulated that the High Court could only nullify Knesset laws that violated human rights as guaranteed by the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom and Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation, but no other basic laws. Furthermore, according to Friedmann's proposal, a bill nullified by the Supreme Court would remain valid for six months after the court decision unless there were special reasons to cancel it immediately. On another subject, Neeman said he was opposed to establishing a special court to deal with constitutional issues, another thorny subject which has triggered heated controversy in the past. "I strongly believe we should not establish a constitutional court in our legal system because it will cause an earthquake in Israel to try to make such a major change," he said. "In order to maintain our stability, I suggest that the Supreme Court continue to have the right to decide on constitutional issues. We have enough problems as it is. I don't want to create another major issue."

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