Connect with us

Foreign

EU court orders Poland to suspend disciplinary panel for judges

Published

on

 The European Court of Justice (ECJ), on Wednesday, ordered Poland to immediately suspend a controversial disciplinary chamber for judges until it can rule on whether the body is sufficiently independent under EU law.

The issue feeds into broader rule-of-law concerns pitting the European Commission against Poland’s national-conservative government.

The Supreme Court’s disciplinary chamber comes under too much political influence and has the power to investigate and punish ordinary judges for their court rulings, the EU executive argues.

Members of the disciplinary chamber are selected by a parliament-appointed judicial body.

Warsaw immediately lashed out at Wednesday’s interim ruling.

“The ECJ has no competence to assess, not to mention suspend, constitutional organs of member states.

“Today’s ruling is an act of usurpation, which infringes on Poland’s sovereignty,’’ Deputy Justice Minister, Sebasitan Kaleta, wrote on Twitter.

The commission first raised its concerns with the ECJ – the EU top court – in October.

It in turn referred the issue to the Polish Supreme Court, which ruled in 2019 that the disciplinary chamber does not meet EU requirements on judicial independence.

In spite of these rulings, the chamber continues to operate, while the Justice Ministry in Warsaw has contested the Polish Supreme Court ruling.

The situation creates “a risk of irreparable damage for Polish judges,’’ the European Commission said in January, urging the ECJ to take immediate action.

The Luxembourg-based judges granted the commission’s request on Wednesday, finding that its concerns about judicial independence are “not unfounded’’ and that there is a risk of “serious damage to the EU legal order’’.

If Warsaw fails to follow the order, it faces the prospect of fines.

While defending the disciplinary chamber, Polish government officials have repeatedly underlined the independence of EU member states in organising their judiciary systems.

The ECJ dismissed this argument, however, noting that member states must comply with “obligations deriving from EU law’’ such as judicial independence.

The top EU court must still rule on the question of whether the disciplinary chamber does, in fact, lack judicial independence and impartiality.

This decision will come at a later date.

Brussels has been at loggerheads with Warsaw for several years over judicial reforms introduced by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) since it came to power in 2015.

In late 2018, interim measures approved by the ECJ helped re-instate a number of Supreme Court judges who were forced into retirement by another PiS reform.

In separate reforms enacted earlier this year, Poland further tightened the disciplinary regime for judges and prosecutors.

Judges can now face punishment – including dismissal – for a range of actions, such as questioning the legality of judicial appointments.

This bill has been widely criticised by legal experts in Poland and abroad and has triggered street protests in the country.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Abdulfatah Babatunde
(NAN)

Fatima Sule: is a graduate and a professionally trained journalist, with experience in national news reporting/editing and verification at the News Agency of Nigeria. NNN is a Nigerian online news portal that publishes breaking news in Nigeria, and across the world. Our journalists are honest, fair, accurate, thorough and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting news in the best interest of the public, because truth is the cornerstone of journalism and they strive diligently to ascertain the truth in every news report. Contact: editor[at]nnn.com.ng