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New court bill delayed after Supreme Court objection

The supreme court

The Supreme Court has expressed disagreement with a government bill creating a commercial court and an admiralty court because it did not provide for them to be two distinct entities, it emerged on Wednesday.

In a letter to the House legal affairs committee on Monday, the Supreme Court said it would be legally and practically proper for the two courts to be established by separate legislation and exist as distinct judicial entities, each one exercising its own authority.

Instead, the bill currently being discussed by the committee provides for one court made of five judges that will adjudicate in two divisions.

Committee chairman Nicos Tornaritis said Justice Minister Stephie Dracou has assumed the initiative to consult with the Supreme Court “because if we fully adopt the Court’s letter, approval of the particular bill will be delayed.”

Tornaritis said the bill must be passed as soon as possible to contribute towards the reduction of the large number of pending commercial cases in district courts.

The admiralty court had only 50 cases pending in recent years, he said, noting that a separate court would have nothing to do.

Akel MP Aristos Damianou described the affair as a farce, with the letter coming after years of supposed consultations between the executive and the judiciary.

“The fact that the Supreme Court, which will be called upon to implement this part of the (justice) reform, expressed substantive disagreements is a setback,” Damianou said.

He said his party had its own proposals but will wait for the results of the talks between Dracou and the Supreme Court before tabling them.

Establishment of the two courts is part of a series of reforms aiming to make the island’s justice system more efficient.

Cyprus ranks among the slowest countries in the world in terms of delivering justice, a conference in Nicosia heard last March.

While the EU average required to complete a case is eight months, Cyprus needs more than 2,500 days.

Civil lawsuits often take a decade or more to complete, especially if appeals are involved.

 

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