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Duma leaves unchanged presidential version of courts merger bill

November 20, 2013, 16:10 UTC+3 MOSCOW

In particular, it was proposed to expand the judicial selection board of the unified Russian Supreme Court

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© ITAR-TASS/Georgy Andreev

MOSCOW, November 20. /ITAR-TASS/. The State Duma, discussing in the second and main reading on Wednesday an amendment to the Constitution on creating a unified Supreme Court from the current Russia’s Supreme Court and Russia’s Supreme Commercial Court, has turned down all the changes to the bill, proposed by the Duma opposition.

In particular, it was proposed to expand the judicial selection board of the unified Russian Supreme Court. An initiator of the changes, deputy head of the relevant state building committee Aleksandr Ageyev (A Just Russia faction), it was intended to expand the special board membership from 27 to 29 people by means of adding representatives of the Russian federal district commercial courts.

“For the purpose of the formation of the initial composition of the Russian Supreme Court, formed under the current law on amending the Constitution, a special qualification board for the selection of candidates for the judicial bench in the Russian Supreme Court shall be established. The board comprises 29 members. The board shall be formed of one representative of the Russian president, one representative of the Russian Public Chamber and national private associations of lawyers. The rest 26 members of the board shall be elected as follows: two members from each Judicial Council operating in the territory of each Russian federal district and one representative from each of 10 federal district commercial courts of the Russian Federation,” it was said in the text of the amendment, signed by more than 90 lawmakers.

It was also proposed to exclude the procedure of approval with the Russian subjects of the candidates for the posts of Russia’s deputy prosecutor general if they are appointed by the president.

However, the Duma refused to include these norms in the bill. “Preservation of the president’s version will promote the authority of the Russian Constitution,” head of the relevant house committee on constitutional legislation Vladimir Pligin stressed.

The State Duma passed in the first reading the bill on amending the Russian Constitution “On the Russian Supreme Court and Russian Prosecutor’s Office” on November 12. With the required minimum of 300 votes, the document’s concept was supported by 351 MPs and 95 voted against.

The bill proposes to form a unified highest judicial agency on civil, criminal, administrative cases, on the settlement of economic disputes and other cases, subject to the jurisdiction of courts - the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation (SC RF).

It is specified that before the amendments to the Russian Constitution come into force, a six-month transitional period is established, during which the current Russian Supreme Commercial Court is abolished, and issues related to the administration of justice by it are transferred to fall within the jurisdiction of the Russian Supreme Court.

Russia’s unified Supreme Court will consist of 170 judges. Initially, they will be selected by a special qualification board, comprising 27 representatives of the president, Public Chamber, and national private associations of lawyers.

In addition, it is proposed in the bill to enshrine in the Constitution the clauses, according to which the deputy prosecutors general are appointed and dismissed by the Federation Council upper house of parliament upon the recommendation of the president. The opinion of the regional authorities will be taken into account in the appointment.

The procedure of the appointment of prosecutors of Russia’s subjects is also to be changed - they will be approved by the head of state upon the recommendation of the prosecutor general. The current procedure provides for their direct appointment by the prosecutor general on agreement with the regional authorities.

The adoption of the amendment to the Constitution on the merger of the supreme courts will entail changes in 28 Russian federal laws.

The final voting on the second reading of the amendment to the Constitution will be held after 17:00 Moscow time (13:00 GMT).

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