The Gupta family’s Oakbay group of companies has accused Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan of “bothering” a full bench of the high court with an “idle, abstract, moot point”.
The counsel for Oakbay, Cedric Puckrin SC, argued that it was “remarkable” that the minister sought affirmation of his decision that he did not have the power to interfere in the relationship between the country’s four major banks and the Oakbay group.
Gordhan has asked the court for a declaratory order that he had no authority to intervene in the decision by the country’s four major banks to close the bank accounts of the Gupta family’s Oakbay group of companies.
“We [Oakbay] of course accepts the law, but that’s no reason to bother this court with an ideal, abstract, moot point and take up the time of the court on what is really a settled issue in law.
“Imagine what chaos should there be if on every occasion a functionary received legal advice [that the minister was not obliged to interfere] but approached the court to affirm it.
“… My clients accept the minister has no legal empowerment to intervene. They accept it would be impermissible.
“But I do not conceded that this declaratory order as sought would bind anyone else in future,” he said.
He argued that Gordhan knew the legal advice he received was legitimate, which “gave a glimpse into his mind”.
He said many of parties before court have argued that the banking industry required clarification on the line between private decisions and public interference but said Oakbay would strenuously argue the opposite.
He stressed that Oakbay had never contended in any of its letters to the minister that he was obliged to intervene. It merely said help! thousands of people were about to lose their jobs.
He argued that the order sought by the minister only related to bank accounts already closed.
“There’s no longer an issue of banks being asked not to close accounts because the horse has bolted… This declaratory is purely hypothetical,” he said.
The application continues.