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Russian lawmakers to review 2nd reading of court merger bill

November 20, 2013, 10:22 UTC+3 MOSCOW

On November 12, The State Duma voted 351-95 to support the first reading of the bill, well above the minimum of 300 votes securing its passage

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© ITAR-TASS/Stanislav Krasilnikov

MOSCOW, November 20. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian lawmakers on Wednesday will review the 2nd, principal reading of the amendment to the Constitution merging the High Arbitration Court into the Supreme Court.

The bill was submitted to the State Duma lower house of Russia's parliament by the president.

The house committee on constitutional legislation and state development recommended leaving the president's version of the bill unchanged. The parliament turned down all the three amendments brought forward by the opposition factions.

"Keeping the president's version will contribute to increasing the prestige of the Russian Constitution," Committee chairman Vladimir Pligin said.

Opposition deputies sought to strengthen the role of the Prosecutor General's Office, expand the Qualifying Board which will select new Supreme Court judges and give up the coordination of the candidacies for the posts of prosecutor general's deputies with regional authorities.

On November 12, The State Duma voted 351-95 to support the first reading of the bill, well above the minimum of 300 votes securing its passage.

The legislative initiative proposes to form the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, a single supreme legal panel on civil, criminal, administrative cases, which will also look into economic disputes and other cases handled by the courts of general jurisdiction. The bill provides for a six-month transitional period until the day the amendments to the Fundamental Law come into effect, during which the effective Supreme Court of Arbitration is disbanded, and its legal powers are passed into jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

The united Russian Supreme Court will consist of 170 judges. Initially, they will be selected by a special qualification board comprising representatives of the Russian president, the Russian Public Chamber and all-Russia public unions of lawyers.

The bill offers to include in the Russian Constitution the provisions, under which the Russian deputy general prosecutors are appointed to the post and are relieved from their posts by the Federation Council upon nomination by the Russian president. The procedure of appointing the prosecutors in Russian regions is also changed, as they will be approved by the president upon nomination by the prosecutor general. The effective mechanism envisages direct appointment by the prosecutor general upon coordination with regional authorities.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution to merge the two top courts will require changing 28 federal laws.

Vladimir Pligin does not rule out that the third reading of the document might be approved before the end of this month.

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