About half of all petitions for judicial review are rejected at the application stage without a hearing, the chief justice said yesterday, in response to speculation that the review system is being abused.
'There is no danger of any abuse of the process,' Andrew Li Kwok-nang said, noting that last year, review hearings were refused 47 per cent of the time - in 56 cases out of 119.
But he urged the public to reflect on why so many people were going to court, lodging applications for judicial review. 'Why is there [such] a number of people seeking judicial reviews nowadays? This brings us social and political problems to think about.'
He said the striking growth of judicial reviews in many other common-law jurisdictions could be linked to the increasing complexity of society, the growing amount of legislation and the greater awareness of citizens' rights by the general community.
Given this social trend, he cautioned that the court's role was only to define the limits of legality: 'The solution to political, social and economic problems cannot be found through the legal process, and can only be found through the political process,' he said, stressing the importance of judicial independence.
The number of judicial reviews has generally increased since the handover, although it has fluctuated somewhat in the past few years. Excluding right of abode cases, 119 applications for judicial review were filed in 2001, and that grew to 149 in 2005. According to judiciary records, 130 applications for judicial reviews were raised in the Court of First Instance in 2008; 66 cases were granted leave while the remaining 49 per cent were turned down.