Top court looks at improving petition system

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 February, 2011, 12:00am

In a move apparently intended to improve the country's petition system, local courts will be assessed on their ability to satisfy grievances and prevent public petitioners from seeking redress at higher levels, the Supreme People's Court said yesterday.

The resolution rate for petition cases would be taken into account when evaluating local courts' annual performance starting this year.

The Supreme Court organised training for 12,521 chief justices and judges across the country last year. But it found that many petitioners were not satisfied by either the verdicts or their enforcement at the local level, and took their grievances to Beijing or other big cities in search of redress, Xinhua reported.

The initiative is part of the top court's efforts to curb repeat petitioners. China's centuries-old petition system has recently become a national focus after Premier Wen Jiabao's recent high-profile meeting with petitioners. The court urged the judiciary at all levels to settle their cases properly and prevent petitioners from coming to Beijing, to ensure social stability.

Mainland media have reported many cases of petitioners repeatedly forced to seek redress of grievances with higher authorities, after regional governments or courts failed to mediate and get settlements.

Guo Shunmin, one of the eight petitioners lucky enough to air their grievance with the premier in Beijing last month, has had his case kicked around like a soccer ball by Shanxi authorities. He was finally fired by his boss after he frequently petitioned against the employer for failing to pay for enough endowment insurance as set out in labour law, Southern Metropolis News reported.

The Supreme Court would devise a system to evaluate how likely a dissatisfied petitioner would be to take action after a verdict, a court spokesman said. Judges would be notified and criticised if dissatisfied litigants sought redress with petitions.

'[The new system] requires all judges to raise their awareness of how to prevent further petitions, make great efforts to settle disputes and solve social conflicts by mediation, in order to prevent petitions at their source,' Xinhua quoted the spokesman as saying.

The Supreme Court also urged regional courts to set deadlines for individual cases, to keep impatient litigants from petitioning while their case was before the courts.

The Supreme Court received more than 35,700 petition cases last year and nearly 70 per cent were filed via the internet, Xinhua said.

The mainland's judiciary has often been caught in corruption scandals, in which judges colluded with interested parties and handed down partial verdicts. Many of the thousands of suspects arrested in Chongqing's year-long 'anti-triad tornado' are from the municipality's judiciary system.

Many partial verdicts that end in petitions are believed to be linked to corruption in the mainland judiciary. The Supreme Court said three new regulations to stop judges from colluding with relatives and acquaintances - and to avoid any other conflicts of interest - would be implemented from early this year.

Last month, Wen led a group of about 10 State Council ministers hearing complaints from rural farmers and migrant workers who had come to Beijing.

The petitioners were decrying illegal land requisitions, unpaid wages and insufficient social welfare protection.