Strasbourg, 4 September 2003
CEPEJ (2003) 24
Working party n° 2 of European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ-GT2)
Steps introduced by the supreme court of Cyprus for eliminating delays
Contribution by Mr Loukis SAVVIDES (Cyprus), Member of the CEPEJ
1. Article 152.1 of the Constitution of Cyprus vests in the Supreme Court of Cyprus exclusive jurisdiction in all matters concerning the exercise of the Judicial Power.
2. Article 163 of the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court competence and jurisdiction to regulate proceedings before it and before any other Court in Cyprus, by means of Rules of Court.
3. The regulatory procedure under Article 163 has legislative character and this authority is vested to the judiciary for the purpose of securing its autonomy in the field of its jurisdiction.
RESERVED FINAL JUDGMENTS
4. In the exercise of its powers under Article 163 of the Constitution and in an effort to expedite delivery of final reserved judgments and eliminate delays both in the Supreme Court and the lower Courts the Supreme Court has, on various occasions issued Rules of Court and Practice Directions.
5. In 1986, the Supreme Court enacted Rule of Court No. 11/1986, according to which reserved final judgments, both in the Supreme Court as well as the lower Courts should be delivered the soonest possible and should not remain reserved for more than six months from the date they were reserved. In case of failure of the Judge to comply, a litigant can by application, bring the case before the Full Bench of the Supreme Court for the necessary orders or directions.
6. Such power may also be exercised by the Supreme Court on its own motion in cases where the delay continues for nine months and is dealt with by the Full Bench of the Supreme Court.
7. When a case of delay is presented before the Supreme Court, either on the application of a litigant or on the motion of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court may:
(a) make an order for the rehearing of the case before another competent Court.
(b) make an order for the delivery of the judgment within a fixed time.
(c) make any other order it deems necessary.
8. The above procedure proved very effective in expediting the delivery of reserved judgments. Judges became alert that they should not delay delivering their reserves judgments as such delay might have serious repercussion on their future judicial career and might lead them to submit their resignation form their judicial post, as it happened some years ago in the case of a Senior Judge of the District Courts.
9. Soon after the enactment of the above Rule, the Supreme Court was invited to deal with an application by an accused person in criminal proceedings where the reserved judgment was pending for more than six months - not with standing the fact that the reserved judgment was delivered in the meantime. The Supreme Court made the following observations in its judgment:
“This Rule of Court, as it can be concluded from its text, is intended to remedy delays in the exercise of the Judicial Function. The filing of the application does not create an obstacle to the delivery of the reserved judgment nor such conclusion may be inferred either directly or indirectly from the text of the Rule. The delivery of the judgment in the meantime, remedies the defect in the judicial task and deprios the application of its subject that is of the remedy for the delay.”
10. The Supreme Court on its own motion brought before it a number of cases for delay by a Judge of the Supreme Court to deliver his reserved judgments in such cases. Before the hearing of the cases the Judge informed the Court by letter that he has already fixed dates for the delivery of the reserved judgments. The Supreme Court in its judgment held that:
“The right of a citizen to have his case tried within a reasonable time is safeguarded as a human right both under article 30.2 of the Constitution as well as under article 6 (2) of the European Convention of Human Rights. Bearing in mind the obligation imposed by article 35 of the Constitution on the Legislative, Executive and Judicial authorities to secure, each one of them, within the framework of its competence, the effective application of the rights secured by Part II of the Constitution, an order should be made under rule 5 (b) of the Rule of Court 1986 for the speedy delivery of Judgments of the Courts so that the judgment in each one of the particular cases should be delivered on the dates fixed by the trial Judge according to his letters, and in case of non compliance the matter to be brought up before the Supreme Court”.
11. The Full Bench of the Supreme Court further held in the above cases that the object of the relevant Rule was the creation of a mechanism for the self control of the Judicial Authority in order that it fulfils its constitutional obligations in general and in the security of human rights in particular.
12. In another set of cases for delays of delivery of judgment by two Senior Judges of the District Court, the Supreme Court took into account the fact that in the case of one of the Judges the reserved judgments were to be delivered soon on a date already fixed by him, made an order for the delivery of the judgments on the dates so fixed. In the case of the other judge who had not indicated when he intended to deliver his reserved judgments the Court made an order fixing a date for the delivery of the judgments and in case of failure by the judge to comply the cases were to be fixed once again before the Supreme Court for further directions. The judgments were not delivered as the judge in the meantime submitted his resignation from his judicial post.
In these case the Supreme Court stressed that:
“The object of the Rule of Court is the introduction of a procedure to safeguard the finality of the judicial process ……………….
The Rule of Court is not intented for consideration of the consequences of any delay to the rights of the parties. Its object is to secure the unobstructed operation of the judiciary”.
RESERVED JUDGMENTS ON INTERLOCUTORY MATTERS
13. By Rule of Court No. 28/2002 the Supreme Court extended the application of the provisions of Rule No. 11/1986 to Reserved Judgment on Interlocatory matters in the course of the hearing but with a more limited period for delivery of reserved judgments. Thus the period for delivery of reserved judgments was restricted to two months from the completion of the hearing and the reservation of the delivery of the judgment, with the same consequences as in the case of Rule No. 11/1986.
PRE-TRIAL STAGE e.t.c.
14. Prior to 1996 there was no time-limit for counsel either in Civil or Criminal proceedings for addressing the Supreme Court on appeal. There was a number of cases before the Court of Appeal were counsel making abuse of their right of address used to address the Court for days in consecutive sittings of the Court.
15. The above practice caused serious delays in concluding an Appeal as voluminous minutes of the addresses had to be prepared for perusal by the Court before deliberating in the case.
16. For the purpose of eliminating such practices and in an effort to shorten the proceedings the Supreme Court enacted in 1996 the following Rule of Court in civil appeals:
“In the matter of Appeals (Pretrial, Summary of written addresses, Limitation of time for oral addresses and Summary Procedure for the Dismissal of apparently unfounded Appeals”.
17. The said Rule contains provisions in the terms of the context of the heading of the rule. Thus a pre-trial stage was provided at which parties represented by their counsel appear before the Court.
18. The Court of Appeal at this stage examines matters touching the appeal and makes directions. The Court is empowered to dismiss the appeal or cross-appeal summarily if satisfied that the appeal is pertinent or manifestly unfounded.
19. The Court further examines if the appeal or cross-appeal, is in conformity with Rules, ascertains the grounds of appeal and issues directions for the filing by the parties of written addresses (in summary form) in support of their case.
20. The written addresses have to be filed within prescribed periods; that of the appellant within 45 days from the day of the issue of directions and that of the respondent within 45 days from service on him of the written address of the other side.
21. The written addresses should contain substantially in a summary form all the argumentation in support of the case or vice versa and reference should be made to legal authorities supporting the principles of law advanced. The grounds of appeal are expounded and if the issue is on a legal point reference should be made to the relevant provisions in the Constitution and the Law.
22. Failure of appearance of the appellant or the respondent may lead to the dismissal of the appeal or cross-appeal unless the Court of Appeal considers it expedient to make directions to the contrary. In case of failure of the respondent to appear the Court may proceed to the hearing of the appeal in his absence.
23. After the filing of the written addresses as above the appeal and any cross-appeal are fixed for hearing at the same time.
24. If the appellant or in the case of cross-appeal the respondent, fail to file their written addresses the appeal or cross-appeal are dismissed. If the respondent fails to file his address the hearing of appeal is adjourned to another day for hearing and only the appellant has a right to be heard.
25. At the end of each month, the Registry of the Supreme Court prepares a list of appeals in which the parties failed to submit their written addresses and the Court of Appeal deals with such defaults.
26. At the hearing of the appeal the time allowed to each counsel for addressing the Court is limited to 30 minutes for each one of them (excluding the time for answering questions put by the Court), and the appellant has a further time of 10 minutes to reply. In cases where there is a cross-appeal the time allowed to the Respondent to address in answer and in support of his cross-appeal is extended to 40 minutes and the time for reply by the appellant is extended to 20 minutes.
27. The time for addresses may be extended by the Court if it deems it necessary.
28. By a further Rule of Court made in 1998 an addition provision was enacted whereby a right of re-instatement of the appeal or cross-appeal, which was dismissed for failure to file a written address, is granted, in cases where the failure was due to a reason beyond the control of the party so that parties in such case should not be deprived of their right to be heard.
29. CRIMINAL APPEALS. In 1999, the Supreme Court enacted an additional Rule making a similar provision for written addresses in criminal cases.
30. Under the provisions of such Rule in criminal appeals against conviction or acquittal of the accused the Court of Appeal may at any time before the hearing of the appeal order the submission of written addresses by the appellant and the responded. The time for filing such addresses is fixed at 14 days for the appellant from the date of communication to him of the order and 14 days for the respondent from the day of receipt of the written address of the appellant.
31. RULE OF PRACTICE OF 2001. In 2001 the Supreme Court, issued a Rule of Practice to the District Courts to the effect that whenever it was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court either by representations by an interested Party for the speedy trial of his case or by the Registries of the Courts that there is a delay in the trial of a case or where the trial does not proceed from day to day without interruption according to the circulars of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court may issue directions aiming at avoiding such delays of the hearing. By this Rule of Practice a duty is cast on the Registrars of the District Court to follow up pending cases and report to the Supreme Court of any delays concerning the hearing of civil and criminal cases.
32. All the above have contributed a lot to speedy trials and avoidance of delays so that the situation concerning delays has been considerably improved and the administration of justice has become very effective compared to what it was before.