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CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Source: CODICES

Decision 01/99 of 14 January 1999 (summary)

a) Bulgaria / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 14/01/1999 / e) 01/99 / f) / g) Darzhaven vestnik (Official Gazette), 6, 22/01/1999 / h) CODICES (French).

Headnotes:

Questions of contravention of procedural rules during the examination and adoption of laws fall within the National Assembly's field of competence.

Only the Chief Prosecutor's Office may bring charges against criminal suspects.

The judiciary has its own budget and the Minister of Justice is therefore not entitled to manage any part of it.

Disciplinary action may not be taken against members of the judiciary who have broken their oath, so as not to create an environment in which they are unable to interpret and enforce the law in full accordance with their conscience and convictions.

Measures taken by the Supreme Judicial Council in respect of the rights of members of the judiciary are administrative measures and are therefore subject to review by the Supreme Administrative Court.

Suspending the activities of the existing Supreme Judicial Council and replacing it by a new Supreme Judicial Council are not unconstitutional because the new composition of the Council is more truly representative of all the judicial bodies that have recently been set up.

Summary:

The proceedings were initiated at the request of the Chief Prosecutor and 49 members of the National Assembly, who wanted the provisions of the law amending and supplementing the Judiciary Act to be declared unconstitutional. They alleged that there had been procedural irregularities during the examination of, and vote on, the Act. Among the provisions challenged were:

paragraph 5.3, which granted the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court and the Minister of Justice the right to make proposals to the Supreme Judicial Council regarding lifting the immunity of members of the judiciary and their temporary suspension from their duties;

paragraph 71, which allowed the Minister of Justice and European Legal Integration to manage part of the judiciary's budget;

paragraph 52, which provided that disciplinary action could be taken against judges, public prosecutors or investigating judges who broke the oath they had sworn;

the power vested in the Supreme Judicial Council to appoint the public prosecutor in any disciplinary proceedings;

paragraph 8 and paragraph 62.1, under which cases involving contravention of judges', public prosecutors' or investigating judges' rights were dealt with by a panel appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council and comprising three judges from the Supreme Court of Cassation and two judges from the Supreme Administrative Court;

provisions governing the investigation services, the military tribunal attached to the Supreme Court of Cassation and the military prosecutor's office in relation to the structure of the Chief Prosecutor's Office and its powers;

suspension of the activities of the existing Supreme Judicial Council and its replacement by a new Supreme Judicial Council.

The Constitutional Court ruled that questions of infringement of procedural rules during the examination and adoption of laws fell within the National Assembly's field of competence. Neither the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, nor the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, nor the Minister for Justice could propose lifting the immunity of members of the judiciary or their temporary suspension from their duties because [ENG-BUL-A-127] Article 127.1 of the Constitution provided that only the Chief Prosecutor's Office could bring charges against criminal suspects. Empowering the Minister of Justice to manage part of the budget was unconstitutional since, under [ENG-BUL-A-117] Article 117.3 of the Constitution, the judiciary had an independent budget. The provision on disciplinary action against members of the judiciary who broke their oath was also at variance with the Constitution because the wording was very general and open to different interpretations; the provision could also create an environment in which members of the judiciary were prevented from interpreting and applying the law in full accordance with their conscience and convictions. Granting the Supreme Judicial Council powers to appoint the public prosecutor in disciplinary proceedings was incompatible with the Constitution because under [ENG-BUL-A-117] Article 117.2 of the Constitution, public prosecutors were subject only to the law. Appointing a panel of three judges from the Supreme Court of Cassation and two judges from the Supreme Administrative Court conflicted with [ENG-BUL-A-119] Articles 119.1, [ENG-BUL-A-119] 119.3 and [ENG-BUL-A-125] 125 of the Constitution in that measures taken by the Supreme Judicial Council regarding the rights of members of the judiciary were administrative measures and therefore reviewable by the Supreme Administrative Court. Suspending the activities of the existing Supreme Judicial Council and replacing it by a new Supreme Judicial Council were not unconstitutional because the composition of the new council was more truly representative of all the judicial bodies that had been set up recently.