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Adv Motilal Sunil Rugunanan

Advocate Rugunanan - Eastern Cape - JSC interviews 2019


Current position: Advocate

Date appointed: Joined the Bar in 2001

Candidate bio:

Rugunanan holds an LLB from Rhodes University and has spent several stints acting at the Eastern Cape High Court in Grahamstown, from 2012 until 2018.

During these acting stints he has dealt with both civil and criminal matters. Where the occasion has demanded, Rugunanan has noted the societal context in which many of these crimes were committed and the idea that “justice must be seen to be done” by broader communities.

In S V Koester, which dealt with an 18 year sentence for a murder conviction, Rugunanan “considered the matter anxiously” before confirming that, after considering the circumstances, “a heavy sentence in excess of the prescribed minimum is justified”.

He described the murder as “a brutal and callous act for no justifiable reason and for which no explanation exists other than a blatant denial premised on the notion of a conspiracy against him. This kind of brutality has unfortunately become a regular occurrence of life in South Africa and courts are enjoined to signal a clear message that such behaviour will not escape the full force and effect of the law …. It is noted the accused elected not to testify in mitigation of sentence. Whatever his reasons, that was his right but it is not without consequences … His silence simply meant there was nothing to be said in his favour.”

Ragunanan confirmed that 18 years was “proportionate to the nature and seriousness of the crime”.

He has previously worked as an Estates Examiner for the department of justice and as an advocate at the Grahamstown Bar from 2001. In 2017 he interviewed unsuccessfully for a position on the Eastern Cape Bench. Then, a judgment reserved for nine months appeared to scupper his chances of appointment.

October 2019 Interview:

October 2017 Interview:

October 2017 Interview synopsis:

A judgment reserved for nine months proved the major sticking point in advocate Sunil Rugunanan’s 27-minute interview — judges have three months to deliver a judgment or can hand it down during the following term with the permission of the judge president.

In his defence Rungunanan said the tardiness was “not a result of indolence or incompetence on my part,” but because it was a “very complex matter”. Rugunanan’s attempt to explain the complexity of the matter — which dealt with legislation and safety regulations related to demolition of buildings — did not appear to win over the Judicial Service Commission.

The JSC was even less impressed when Rungunanan admitted that he did not know he was required to seek out the Eastern Cape Judge President’s permission to delay handing down a reserved judgment.