BEIJING, Aug. 25 -- China's top legislature on Monday began to review a draft amendment which will make it easier for citizens to take the government to court.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) on Monday started its bimonthly meeting to review a number of documents, including a draft amendment to the Administrative Procedure Law tabled for its second reading. If the amendment is passed, actionable cases will no longer be confined to "specific administrative acts".
As the law stands, citizens, companies or other organizations may file suit against "specific administrative acts" by administrative agencies or personnel which they believe to have infringed their rights.
As Articles 11 and 12 explicitly list kinds of disputes that are actionable, the amendment removes the word "specific," which in practice sometimes becomes an excuse for courts to throw out cases.
Currently, courts can only revoke an administrative act when it is deemed illegal. The draft allows the revoking of acts that are "evidently unreasonable".
The draft also compels defendants--representatives of the administrations concerned--to personally appear before the court. At present, some defendants simply ask their lawyers to represent them in court, which often does little to help settle the dispute.
Another change in the draft is that both the original department that carried out action in question and the administration that reviewed the case will be listed as joint defendants. According to current law, an administrative agency which has reviewed another agency's questionable act is only regarded as a defendant if it changed the original decision.
In practice, these stipulations have resulted in reluctance to change controversial decisions, and thereby avoid being dragged into troublesome legal wrangling, rendering the administrative review system ineffective in some situations.
The draft also extends time limits for plaintiffs to file suit and for hearings to take place.
The 1990 Administrative Procedure Law is a major guarantee of citizens' rights to pursue the government through the courts.