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Cases against govts must be on record

By CAO YIN | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-15 07:18

Measure is meant to prevent officials or judges from interfering in lawsuits

The Supreme People's Court has reissued an order to courts nationwide to ensure that all lawsuits against government departments are placed on record, and telling them not to ignore complex cases.

Since May 2015, courts have been required to file all cases-except those that fail a basic review-as part of a national reform aimed at streamlining the process and preventing interference from judges and other officials.

The move has resulted in more litigants getting their day in court, especially those with disputes against government departments, the top court said.

Data from the top court show that as of March, courts nationwide had accepted more than 31 million cases, with 95 percent of them filed immediately after a basic review-which means a hearing must go ahead unless the plaintiff withdraws.

Between May 2015 and April last year, the number of cases filed against governments-known as administrative cases-increased more than 35 percent year-on-year, the data show.

Yet some courts are "still refusing such cases because they think the disputes are hard to tackle, could affect the interests of local governments or would cause a burden upon their conclusion", the SPC said on Thursday. "Such improper excuses for rejecting a lawsuit must be prohibited," it said.

To reinforce the reform, the top court has issued a guideline for protecting the rights of litigants involved in lawsuits against government departments.

"Some judges are overwhelmed by the soaring number of cases, but that cannot become an excuse to ignore, delay or even refuse to accept disputes," an unnamed official with the SPC's Administrative Tribunal was quoted as saying.

If a case fails a basic review, courts must inform litigants what additional materials should be provided for their case to progress, he said.

However, he added, "It's important to prevent litigants from making use of their right to appeal to disturb court order."

In 2016, for instance, a district court in Nantong, Jiangsu province, refused to file cases for Lu Hongxia, who initiated 36 lawsuits against local government departments and applied for them to disclose information 94 times within 18 months.

"Such repeated lawsuits were not designed to solve problems. Instead, the litigant wanted to put pressure on government departments, hoping to obtain more compensation for the demolition of her house," the Nantong court quoted an unnamed judge as saying last year.

Yang Weidong, a law professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said: "The protection of litigation rights is as important as the regulation of litigant's behavior. Otherwise, it will be harder to improve legal efficiency, given such rapid growth in the number of cases."

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