Bulgaria’s Cabinet approved on June 15 a second package of amendments to the Judiciary Act, part of the judiciary reform process that started after the constitutional amendments passed last year.
The earlier bill of amendments, which Parliament passed at second reading in March, implemented the key provisions from the constitutional amendments, such as the separation of the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) into separate colleges overseeing courts and the prosecutor’s office.
The provisions in the second package of amendments are meant to improve court self-governance, reducing the powers of the administrative heads of individual courts, as well as increasing the accountability and decentralisation of the prosecutor’s office. It also includes provisions on the additional powers granted to the SJC inspectorate, the body that can investigate and sanction magistrates.
It is seen as reducing the powers of the prosecutor-general – although critics say that the change is too incremental and not far-reaching enough – and is meant to give judges a bigger say in the process of appointing the heads of courts, which is currently entirely at the discretion of the SJC.
Some of the provisions in the bill, those dealing with the self-governance of courts in particular, prompted sharp criticism from the current line-up of the SJC, which has been reluctant to endorse the recent judiciary reform efforts. After discussing the amendments at its meeting last week, the SJC surprisingly voted to reject the bill in its entirety.
Although the council’s endorsement is not necessary, the decision was seen as an attempt to derail the process altogether, with Justice Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva describing it “absurd”, given that some of the amendments in the bill had been put forth by the SJC.
Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has previously described the package as one of the key elements of the judiciary reform and a “top priority” for the current legislative session, which runs until the end of July. The bill, drafted by the Justice Ministry, is expected to pass with support from the two junior partners in the ruling coalition, Zaharieva said after the Cabinet meeting on June 15.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)