On 25 June 2021, Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan deliberated over the draft bill on the amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure.
The draft bill was prepared in accordance with the instructions and recommendations set forth in the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan "On deepening reforms in the judicial system" from 3 April 2019, with the aim of accelerating the process of the formation of the judiciary that meets modern requirements, taking advantage of the application of modern information technologies in the judicial proceedings and ensuring more effective use of the judicial mechanisms envisaged by law.
Within the framework of the draft bill, having received and analyzed in a respective working group the proposals from the Supreme Court of the Republic of Azerbaijan, appellate courts and courts of first instance, the Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Ministries of Justice and Economy, the Bar Association of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the National Confederation of the Organizations of Entrepreneurs (Employers) of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan and taking into account the best practices of foreign countries and international courts, as well as the recommendations of the World Bank’s “Doing Business” project, progressive provisions have been developed in order to improve the legislation of civil procedure.
Justices of the Supreme Court, who are the members of the working group, have participated in the deliberations held at the Milli Majlis of the Republic of Azerbaijan and answered the questions of the representatives of the Milli Majlis. It was noted that the draft envisages conceptual innovations that significantly alter the philosophy of the Code of Civil Procedure.
Therefore, the pre-trial conference stage in courts has been reformed and the changes have been aimed at ensuring more efficient disposition of the cases during trial. The submission of the claims and evidence by the parties to each other and to the court within a pre-determined period, as well as the submission of their reasoned arguments in a more thorough manner, will enable the court to examine the position of the parties more accurately, which will ultimately improve the quality of the court decisions.
In addition, the draft bill establishes in a number of cases the rules for the application of written procedure in courts. The application of written procedure will not only increase the requirements for the quality of procedural documents submitted by the parties to the court, but will also serve to prevent unnecessary delays in court proceedings.
Another innovation envisaged in the draft is the ability of courtroom participants to participate in civil proceedings by the use of video conferencing without appearing in court. Moreover, according to the draft bill, the next stage of the expansion of the implementation of the "Electronic Court" information system will provide faster and easier exchange of documents and other benefits for its users.
By regulating the rules of the application of interim measures in civil proceedings in more detail, the draft bill will provide for greater flexibility in the application of such measures, will result in more substantiated decisions being adopted and will reduce the possibility of abuse applying these measures.
The provisions dealing with court fines, which was the subject of an in-depth discussion among the members of the legal community, were also clarified during the meeting.
The current version of the Code of Civil Procedure provides for the imposition of fines on courtroom participants for raising challenges aimed at delaying the court proceedings. Likewise, according to Article 120 of the Code, the court may charge a certain amount to a party who has made an unsubstantiated claim or disputed the claim, or who has consistently obstructed the proper and prompt consideration and resolution of the case.
The proposed changes to the Code stipulate that a party, its representative or attorney may be fined for up to 500 manats not only for an unsubstantiated claim, but also for a frivolous motion or petition, or for openly obstructing the proper and prompt consideration and resolution of the case.
As can be seen, the proposed changes specify the current norm, even making the existing requirement and standard for considering an unsubstantiated motion more stringent. In addition, the upper limit of a fine is established that can be imposed on a subject abusing the right to petition. The aim of the changes is to eliminate unnecessary delays in the judicial process, thereby increasing the efficiency of justice and ensuring the right of citizens to effective legal remedies.
It is surprising that some lawyers have expressed excessively such strong reaction to the changes aimed at the clarification of the existing court fines, disregarding the abovementioned conceptual changes.
The Supreme Court regularly invites the legal community to discuss issues that contribute to the development of law and to submit proposals for the improvement of legislation and judicial practice. It is unfortunate that some lawyers concentrate on making false statements on social media, rather than making a real contribution towards the development of law.
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