Justice Ministry slammed for asking High Court to review its own jurisdiction on revoking laws • “Move indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the workings of a democratic regime. It’s not for the court to decide on its authority,” says minister.
The Justice Ministry was harshly criticized Tuesday following its decision to ask the High Court of Justice to review and define its own jurisdiction when it comes to repealing legislation.
The ministry asked the court to hold an extended-panel discussion on the issue of better regulating the balance of power between the judicial and legislative authorities, especially on the court’s authority to effectively annul legislation passed by the Knesset. The move is rare, as it asks the court to debate a matter of principle that does not affect a specific case.
Currently, while the court refrains from weighing in on the Knesset’s work, it may debate the validity of any law, and can essentially repeal legislation that contradicts Israel’s Basic Laws, which serve in lieu of a constitution.
The Justice Ministry’s request “was wrong. It indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the workings of a democratic regime. It is not for the court to decide on its authority — the Knesset is the one that determines the court’s authority,” Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) said.
Levin said the court “cannot take what wasn’t given to it. The assumption that the court will decide on the scope of its authority and what [laws] it can repeal means the judiciary has completely failed to understand its place, which is a mortal blow to democracy.
“This kind of request, presented without a proper government discussion, is inappropriate and it also creates a situation by which those who were not elected by the public speak for the state. This request should be withdrawn and the court should refrain from repealing laws enacted by the Knesset, as it has not been authorized to do so.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked explained the move, saying, “We, as a government, cannot live with the High Court’s ruling from last week, which repealed the law imposing a special tax on homeowners who own more than two pieces of real estate. We asked the court to have an extended panel debate this issue.”
Speaking with the financial daily The Marker, Shaked said that “when the court repeal laws like this one, it is effectively the judicialization of politics. Supreme Court Justice Meni Mazuz himself said that no country in the world repeals laws over procedures.”
She was referring to the criticism the High Court made of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee’s work, which the court ruled was “innately flawed.”
“After consulting with all the professional bodies in my ministry and in the Finance Ministry, I decided to request another hearing on this issue, to focus solely on the principle of the matter. I don’t want to involve the issue of taxation of a third apartment, which the finance minister will present as a revised bill for the Knesset’s approval,” Shaked said.
Zionist Union MK Revital Swid criticized Shaked’s move, saying, “The boundaries between the High Court of Justice and the Knesset are clear. There is no need to redraw them or prompt a discussion that will determine the authority that has already been vested in the High Court.
“In a democratic state that advocates the rule of law, the High Court has the authority to repeal anti-democratic or anti-constitutional legislation or laws that stem from a flawed process. This is another step in the attempt to erode the court’s authority while delegitimizing its role as gatekeeper.”