The Freedom of Expression Institute has welcomed President Thabo Mbeki's decision not to sign the controversial Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) Amendment Bill into law on the grounds that it may be unconstitutional.

Mbeki, who received representations from different organisations urging him not to sign the "unconstitutional" bill into law, has referred it back to Parliament for reworking.

The bill changed the appointment and dismissal procedures for members of the council of Icasa, making Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe Casaburri responsible for these procedures rather than Parliament.

The bill would also have ensured the Icasa chairman was accountable to the minister rather than Parliament for his performance.

"These changes would have destroyed the constitutionally guaranteed independence that Icasa enjoys from the ministry," Freedom of Expression Institute executive director Jane Duncan said.

"Had the bill been signed into law, the institute believes it would have been subject to constitutional challenge for violating the independence of Icasa."

Duncan expressed concern, however, about what she termed the "persistent tendency" of the communications department to draft constitutionally dubious legislation.

Democratic Alliance communications spokeswoman Dene Smuts said she was "delighted" by the president's decision.

Business Day