Courts of original verdicts to hear retrials

Updated: 2012-09-01 03:34

By ZHAO YINAN (China Daily)

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Cases involving more than one plaintiff or defendant will be retried in the same court that handed down the original verdict, an amendment to the Civil Procedure Law passed on Friday has ruled, prompting concerns there will be less opportunities to overturn disputed verdicts.

Lawmakers said the change will mainly affect cases on environmental and food safety issues.

The change, which will be put into effect in January, differs from current rules that require all retrials to be heard in a higher court, a practice started in 2007 to encourage courts to correct wrong verdicts.

The growing number of retrials has led to an increased workload at provincial-level courts and the country’s top court, the Supreme People’s Court.

Wang Shengming, a lawmaker from the National People’s Congress, said the change is aimed at improving judicial efficiency.

Li Shishi, deputy director of the NPC Law Committee, said on Monday that environmental pollution and unsafe food cases usually involve a large number of parties.

Courts of original jurisdiction are in a better position to conduct a thorough investigation, he said.

"It is also in line with the principle of resolving the conflict at the local level," he said.

The move has been met with mixed feeling among experts, with some arguing the decision reflects a conservative attitude from governments in addressing issues involving the public interest.

Tang Weijian, civil procedure professor at Renmin University of China, said he worries that the stipulation will complicate retrials.

Tang suspected it would be difficult for some local courts to admit they made a wrong judicial decision, either out of pressure from local governments or fear of being held accountable for wrong verdicts.

"Cases related to environmental pollution and food safety are usually raised against local enterprises, which are important taxpayers. They may have an influence on the local government," he said.

Chen Sixi, lawmaker of the NPC Standing Committee, said having a disputed verdict heard in a higher court is beneficial in promoting public trust in the judicial system.