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Embrace judicial openness

(China Daily)

10:34, July 04, 2013

China's top court has recently made public some verdicts on its official website, in a renewed effort to push for judicial openness and transparency.

According to the Supreme People's Court, all of its judgments will be publicized except those concerning State secrets, trade secrets or personal privacy. In so doing, the top court plays an exemplary role in guaranteeing the public's right to know and brings its work under public supervision. This marks an important step toward promoting justice with an open and transparent judicial system.

Despite great efforts in past years to press ahead with judicial reforms, inadequate transparency means the public is still in the dark on the whole about how rulings are made. It is a common practice in China for judicial verdicts to be revealed in court to just the parties concerned and then transmitted to related departments.

Obviously, judicial procedures that lack openness, transparency and public oversight can easily lead to unfair judgments and fuel public discontent, as indicated by a number of petitions filed by litigants or their relatives to higher-level departments across the country following court rulings in recent years.

The supreme court promulgated a regulation in 2010 requiring courts to make public their verdicts online. However, such a regulation has not been fully implemented.

At a conference held in late May, Zhou Qiang, China's chief judge, called for more efforts to guarantee public access to judicial information, saying the information should be made available to the public in a timely manner and explanations should be offered if necessary to dispel public doubts.

A 9.6 percent decrease year-on-year in the number of complaints and appeals in Guangdong province in 2012 due to its increased efforts to push for judicial transparency, including the broadcasting of major cases and the publishing of verdicts online, testifies to the positive effects of open and transparent court rulings.

The top court has taken a fine first step toward the openness and transparency that are essential for judicial justice. It should now take measures to bind courts at lower levels to follow suit.

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