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Judicial reforms 'yield good results'
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08:20, November 26, 2007

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Court reforms over the past decade have helped achieve judicial efficiency, including significant progress in the rulings in major, difficult or controversial cases, the country's top judge said recently.

Supreme People's Court (SPC) President Xiao Yang said the reform of judicial committees, the highest decision-making bodies in the country's judicial system, has greatly improved trial quality and rulings.

Addressing a national working conference on court reforms, Xiao said the decisions of these committees, comprising mainly court and tribunal presidents, used to be taken at closed sessions with no direct contact with either plaintiffs or defendants.

But the reforms have made judicial committee members, along with other judges or panels, join the bench to hear or try the cases.

"Each judge has to read the case document, voice his opinion and directly question litigants," Xiao said.

"For difficult, complicated or socially important cases, judicial committees have to hear the cases in person to better understand the facts and reduce the chances of biased rulings."

SPC judicial committees have been divided into two groups, one for criminal cases and the other for civil and administrative cases, to improve efficiency and accuracy, he said.

Local high courts and immediate people's courts have formed their own criminal, civil and administrative committees, too.

As part of the reforms, judicial committees have also used secret ballots to arrive at a ruling.

More experienced judges have been named to the judicial committees in contrast to the earlier practise of having only court and tribunal presidents, Xiao said.

Renmin University of China's professor of criminal law Chen Weidong has hailed the reforms as "the transfer from closed sessions to trial participation in accordance with trial characteristics".

"It's a fundamental necessity for judges to hear a trial before taking a decision," he said.

"Chinese courts are becoming more professional and specialized, with the formation of special judicial committees and excellent judges who know how to deal with major cases," Chen said

The SPC introduced other important measures, such as review of death penalties, retrial procedures, judicial enforcement, people's jury system, judges' enrolment and management, guiding case instruction and minors' trials.

In a related development, China Society of Judicial Studies was set up yesterday, with SPC Vice-President Cao Jianming being named as its first president.

Cao said the society will conduct special research on how to optimize judiciary resources, fight corruption in and build an independent and fair judicial system, protect people's basic rights and ensure that every citizen enjoys equal chance to be part of social development.

Source: China Daily

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