Back on line: Justice Minister Michael Masutha says his office has intervened in the payment dispute with Juta Publishers in order to restore judges’ access to the online archive service, which they use as a resource for cases. Picture: SUPPLIED
Back on line: Justice Minister Michael Masutha says his office has intervened in the payment dispute with Juta Publishers in order to restore judges’ access to the online archive service, which they use as a resource for cases. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Department of Justice and Juta Publishers have struck a deal giving judges access to Juta’s content, which they rely on as an archive of judgments and legal commentary.

A dispute over payments, which dragged on for more than a month, resulted in the judges being locked out of accessing the online service.

The judges raised concerns that the matter could obstruct the administration of justice.

Juta provides premier law journals, law reports and commentary covering in-depth debate on issues by subject specialists. The journals are often cited by the courts. It is understood that Constitutional Court judges rely on research clerks having access to the database through their membership of university libraries.

"On behalf of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, I would like to apologise for the disruptions caused by the discontinuation of the online and electronic access to publications and law reports provided by the service provider Juta," Justice Minister Michael Masutha said while delivering his budget vote speech in Parliament on Thursday.

"I am happy to announce that following the intervention of my office, the online publication service has been restored," Masutha said.

"Part of the support we give to the courts is providing the tools that judicial officers and other court users need to dispense justice," he said.

Juta had not commented on the record on Thursday as it was awaiting confirmation of the agreement in writing. It is understood the company found the dispute regrettable as it had caused serious inconvenience to the judiciary.

Over the medium-term expenditure framework period, the office of the chief justice has been allocated a total budget of R6.9bn inclusive of the constitutionally mandated allocation. For the 2018-19 financial year, the allocated budget amounts to just more than R2.1bn.

"The capacitation of the office of the chief justice remains one of the office’s strategic goals," Masutha said.

"Over the 2017-18 financial year the office of the chief justice has steadily worked at increasing the department’s human capital. As at March 31 2018, the department had funded 1,898 posts, as opposed to 1,679 from the previous financial year," the minister said.

phakathib@businesslive.co.za

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