Bulgarian Constitutional Court rejects MPs’ query on judicial reform
Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court ruled on September 17 to reject as inadmissible the query made by a group of 144 MPs regarding provisions in the proposed bill of constitutional amendments on judicial reform.
As is the court’s practice, it only announced the outcome of the vote and the ruling, without any of the details or the motives for the decision, which are usually made available several days later. In this instance, 10 of 12 judges voted to find the inquiry inadmissible.
The two points on which the MPs sought clarification were whether the bill’s provisions to split the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) into separate colleges of prosecutors and judges, as well as the bill’s provisions on how the SJC members were to be elected, represented a “change of format in government”.
The inquiry was made in late July, before Parliament went on summer recess, and was seen by some pundits as an attempt to delay the passage of the bill. Now that the court made has declined to take up the matter, the bill is expected to be discussed at first reading on the House floor on September 23.
The key provisions of the bill is the sub-division of the SJC into colleges of judges and prosecutors, direct election of judiciary members of the SJC, and the Inspectorate receiving powers to inspect the properties of members of the bench and to monitor conflicts of interest. However, the old quotas for arriving at the composition of the SJC, split between those from judges, prosecutors and political appointments, will remain unchanged.
Other provisions, such as shortening the term of SJC members by one year to four and making all votes public, were dropped in order to secure the support of opposition parties for the bill. To pass, the constitutional amendments require a qualified majority of 180 MPs (out of 240). Should the bill receive 160 votes at first reading, it could be put to vote again, albeit at a later date – at which point, the required majority would be 160 MPs.
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)