Today, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Märt Rask gave to the Riigikogu an overview of courts administration, administration of justice and the uniform application of Acts. Rask noted that the report discusses the general developments of courts administration, performance of the judicial system is analysed on the basis of court statistics and closer attention is paid to one legal sphere. Rask drew attention to extremely speedy entry into force of some Acts after they had been proclaimed which is not in conformity with the Constitution. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also discussed the issues of state fees. In that connection, he proposed to carry out a comprehensive analysis of the impact of the high state fees which are currently in force on how individuals are guaranteed judicial protection of their fundamental rights.
When speaking about courts administration, Rask mentioned the fact that there has been no substantive, parliamentary discussion of the Courts Bill which is currently in the legislative proceeding of the Riigikogu. “227 judges are employed in courts as at today. The number of vacant places of judges is 15 which is the highest number of vacant places of judges in the last five years. And that in a situation where the workload of courts has increased in all types of proceedings. Vacant places of judges inevitably mean that the duration of proceedings is longer and availability of administration of justice decreases,” underlined Rask. He added that, in 2009, more appeals, statements of claims and criminal matters had been submitted to courts than in 2008 which meant that the workload of courts increased significantly. As the main reasons of delaying of civil proceedings, Rask mentioned difficulties with delivering procedure documents to participants. The duration of proceedings is also prolonged by suspension of proceedings in awaiting for resolution of some other legal dispute, complexity of the civil proceeding and the great number of mandatory procedural acts arising therefrom.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court discussed in depth some aspects of penal law. Rask: “On the basis of explanatory memorandums of several Acts and the opinion of experts, there is reason to say that we have taken the road of overcriminalising.” Rask stated that 55.6 per cent of the Estonian population of 15 to 74 years of age who are capable of working has been entered in the punishment register for commission of different misdemeanours and criminal offences. Persons who have a punishment in force or who have been punished for an offence constitute more than a half of the population. “Massive punishments devaluate the effect of punishment and make the condemning attitude of the society towards commission of offences hypocritical if not sympathising,” said Rask. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made a proposal to the Riigikogu to organise a comprehensive scientific revision of penal law within the coming two or three years in order to define on the basis of values the objectives and directions of the long-term development of penal law. He suggested organising the punishment system which is currently in force and developing the system of non-punitive sanctions.
Comments were presented by Evelyn Sepp, Mai Treial and Väino Linde.
The Riigikogu passed with 77 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Rescue Service Act (618 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose of the amendments is to specify the procedure for granting the old-age pension of rescue service workers and the benefit of a rescue service worker in expectation of old-age pension, the procedure for calculation of the years of service, and to provide appointment and designation of a rescue service worker to another position at a governmental authority or an international organisation. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
The Product Conformity Act (702 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 75 votes in favour. The purpose of the Act is to ensure safety and conformity of the products placed on the market and the free movement of goods. It is a general Act which provides the requirements for ensuring product safety, the bases for product conformity attestation, standardisation, accreditation and organisation of market supervision, insofar as these have not been established by other Acts. This Act enters into force at the time and pursuant to the procedure provided for in the Product Conformity Act Implementation Act. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
The Product Conformity Act Implementation Act (703 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 73 votes in favour. The purpose of the Act is to introduce the necessary amendments on the basis of the principles provided in the Product Conformity Act. The implementation Act repeals the Product and Service Safety Act, the Product Conformity Attestation Act and the Technical Regulations and Standards Act. The regulation of these Acts is replaced by the Product Conformity Act. The Act enters into force on 1 October 2010. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
The Act on Amendments to the Packaging Excise Duty Act and the Packaging Act (707 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 73 votes in favour. The amendments provide the time of entry into force of the contract entered into between the payer of excise duty and the packaging recovery organisation, and the prohibition to retroactively transfer the obligations provided by the Act. In connection with termination of application of export customs procedure to board supplies of water craft or aircraft, exemption from the packaging excise duty is established for packagings of the goods taken on board of water craft or aircraft carrying out international travels from Estonia. Packagings taken on board of water craft or aircraft carrying out international travels will be exempt from deposit. The amendments harmonise the classification of packaging material in the Packaging Act and the Packaging Excise Duty Act. Nobody voted against the Act and nobody abstained.
The Act on Amendments to the Consumer Protection Act (754 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, was passed with 57 votes in favour. The purpose of the amendments is to reduce double resource costs arising from establishing of the sales tax in Tallinn because undertakings will have to prepare to change price tags and other information intended for customers. The added provisions are intended to mitigate the requirements for disclosing the price arising from the Consumer Protection Act. The Act provides a transition period for updating prices from 1 June until 31 July. This enables to add the sales tax to the price of goods or services only at the cash register, provided that relevant information is set out at the entrance of the service hall of the trader or at the cash register. The Act enters into force on 1 June 2010. One member of the Riigikogu voted against the Act, nobody abstained.
On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the first reading of the Transformation of Debts and Debt Protection Bill (743 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to enable to natural persons who have payment difficulties (debtors) transformation of their debts, to overcome payment difficulties, to avoid bankruptcy proceedings, to learn to manage financial obligations which may emerge in the future and to restore solvency. Legitimate interests of both the debtor and his or her creditors are taken into account in this process. A debtor is deemed to have payment difficulties if he or she will likely not be able to perform his or her obligations at the time when they fall due. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
The Riigikogu Press Service