'Limiting petitions to High Court will hurt public'
Justice minister's proposal to tighten regulations on petitioning High Court of Justice ignites standoff within judicial arena between both sides of argument. New policy to curtail right of non-profit organizations to petition court, supporters say move would free up time, resources for private citizens
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann's new proposal to limit eligibility to petition the High Court of Justice has expectedly riled various parties within the judicial system and politicians who claim such a move
would weaken those who fight corruption. But other legal experts say the bold change would allow the court to better its treatment of ordinary citizen petitioners.
Friedmann's proposal may reinstate the policy which only allowes parties directly affected by the matter at hand to petition the court, effectively neutralizing the numerous non-profit organizations that petition the court on various matters.
Filing a petition would also cost more money and the process would be more complicated.
MK Zahava Gal-On, a frequent public petitioner who demanded the High Court order the publication of the Winograd Commission testimonies, is among those who vehemently oppose Friedmann's proposal.
"In his anxiousness to harm the High Court, he is harming civil rights and the right of citizens to petition the court for aid in the face of the government's arbitrariness," she said.
"The minister's proposal may indeed lighten the court's load, but it seriously harms those who are unable to risk heavy fines. This will lead to a situation where only those of means can petition the High Court."
'Last line of defense'
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which recently sided with Friedmann on his various controversial judicial reforms, say they feel slighted this time. "The proposal should be studied seriously from all angles," said forum Director General Nachi Eyal, "however if this infringes on the ability of bodies like ours to address the High Court on matters of corruption and maintaining good governance, it will be problematic."
"The High Court is the last line of defense for bodies that deal with these issues and the continuation of that must be ensured."
Former minister and legal scholar Professor Shimon Sheetrit of the Hebrew University stand firmly in support of Friedmann's proposal. "I have expressed this opinion to the Magidor Committee (appointed in 2005 to recommend changes in the structure of the Israeli government) in the past," he told Ynet on Thursday.
The public petitions use much of court's time and resources, he said, preventing it from providing the services regular citizens are due from it on criminal and civil cases.
"Among other things, these petitions disrupt the relations between the High Court and the Knesset and government," said Sheetrit.