The publication ‘e-Justice is on Active Mode Again – 7 Years Later’ (LIBRe Stories, 12.08.2016) presented the chronological order of regulating e-Justice until the promulgation of the amendments in the Judiciary Act from 09.08.2016. It is interesting, however, to follow the amendments of the legislative norms and terms before they enter into force, having in mind the highly-anticipated reform in the sector that lasted for almost seven years, 2009 – 2016.

Comparison of the texts (in Bulgarian only), proposed under (1) ‘Updated Information Systems for Better Service. Regulation of e-Justice’ Project, 2008-2009; (2) e-Justice Concept, 2012; (3) the draft amendment of the Judiciary Act (JA), 17.06.2016, which entered into force with (4) the Judiciary Act, last amendment and supplemented State Gazette, edition 62 of August 9, 2016; displays the evolution of the proposed amendments and the gradual separation of the e-Justice Concept from the legislation adopted in the area of e-Governance in 2007.

The Draft Law amending the Judiciary Act from 2009 (‘Updated Information Systems for Better Service. Regulation of e-Justice’ Project, 2008-2009) is based on the understanding for the full applicability of the rules of the e-Government Act, and from a systematic point of view it is considered that introducing relevant amendments of this Act and expanding its scope with the introduction of rules allowing electronic certified statements to be made by the judicial authorities would be sufficient for ensuring smooth e-Justice implementation. The draft amendment gradually introduces only those changes that are necessary to preserve the framework of the legislation via the relevant references towards the Judiciary Act.

The Draft Law amending the Judiciary Act from 2012, proposed as part of the e-Justice Concept, builds on the previous project by once again proposing amendment to the e-Government Act, regulating the activities of the judiciary in relation to making certification statements (i.e. administrative services offered by the judicial authorities).

Review of the grounds of the Amendment to the JA from June 2016 displays that the legislature did not pay close attention to changes in the field of e-Justice. It was only mentioned that ‘’the changes suggested in the act are consistent with the basic lines of the Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria (SG. 100 of 2015) adopted by the National Assembly and implements the key measures established by the updated Strategy for Continuation of the Judicial Reform (adopted by the Council of Ministers in December 2014 and approved by the National Assembly in January 2015). The draft implements the key recommendations of European and international institutions as part of the measures outlined in the updated strategy for continuation of the judicial reform.” (see Decision of the Council of Ministers № 484 from 17 June 2016 approving the act, p. 97) This explains the lack of interest from the media and the general public about the feasibility of certification statements and proceedings in electronic form.

A careful examination of the texts showed that they have evolved and even tough they followed the logical framework set by the e-Government legislation (via regulation of dynamic technological aspects in secondary legislation acts), the focus has shifted to separate regulation of e-Justice with partial references to the general provisions of the e-governance Act. At the same time the scale and scope of the changes needed is preserved by refining the corresponding rules.

Chapter 18а ‘Certification of Statement and Procedural Actions Taken in Electronic Form’ of the Judiciary Act (SG. 62 of 2016):

provides general rules for the conduct of proceedings and certification statements in electronic form and the use of information systems by the judicial authorities only if these systems are approved by the plenum of the Supreme Judicial Council (art. 360a-360b JA);

strengthens the normative concept of a unified e-Justice Portal (Art. 360c-360d JA);

ensures consistency in the regime of electronic and paper files, as well as simultaneous work flow of documents in electronic and paper format (Art. 360f-360g JA);

governs the regime of creating, maintaining, keeping and access to electronic files (Art. 360h-360i JA);

regulates the use of digital signatures and electronic identification in the judiciary (Art. 360k JA);

governs the exchange of electronic files and electronic documents between the judicial authorities (Art. 360 m JA);

regulates the keeping, storage and access to the register of judicial acts (Art. 360n-360t JA).

In addition, the Supreme Judicial Council needs to adopt specific and detailed regulation regarding:

requirements for the websites of the judicial authorities (Art. 360e para. 1, p. 1 JA);

technical requirements for conducting proceedings and certification statements in electronic form and the methods of their implementation (Art. 360e para. 1, p. 2 JA);

formats and technical requirements for the electronic documents sent to and from the judicial authorities and the means for their submission by citizens and organizations (Art. 360f para. 1, p. 3 JA);

formats of scanned documents and the other electronic evidence stored in electronic files (Art. 360f para. 1, p. 4 JA);

methods of electronic payment of state fees, costs and other liabilities towards the judicial authorities (Art. 360f para. 1, p. 5 JA);

technical requirements towards consumer, machinery and other interfaces of the information systems used by the judicial authorities (Art. 360f para. 1, p. 6 JA);

e-mail addresses, on which electronic statements can be sent by the judicial authorities, depending on the particular manner of conducting proceedings and certificating statements (Art. 360f para. 1, p. 7 JA);

procedures for keeping, storing and accessing electronic files and the way of storing evidence and evidence materials on cases, and the internal circulation and storage of other information processed by the judicial authorities (Art. 360i JA);

procedures for the use of digital signatures and electronic identification by the judicial authorities (Art. 360k JA);

procedures for keeping, storing and providing access to the register of judicial acts (Art. 360 tons JA);

as well as the acts defined in art. 360о, para. 3 (§ 218, para. 2 JA).

---

The e-Justice Concept (2012), pages 29-33, is the only one from the four sets of documents we have examined that identifies the necessity of changes in the basic procedural acts:

Civil Procedure Code - in relation to the extension of the scope of the relevant legal acts and instruments, provided that the court may issue them and perform all other statutory proceedings in electronic form; establishing the delivery of messages by electronic means, and the terms for electronic delivery; settlement of the option for payment of fees and other obligations to the court electronically; etc.

Administrative Procedure Code – there are no provisions for establishing special procedural rules as the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code apply subsidiary in the absence of special rules in the Administrative Procedure Code. There are some specifics reported which call for special arrangements, e.g. creating new provisions of art. 92 Administrative Procedure Code.

Criminal Procedure Code - in terms of the criminal litigation, it was reported that it was too early to attempt to conduct procedural actions entirely through electronic means before the judiciary establishes practice on the exercise of procedural rights in electronic form. Therefore, as a first stage, it was suggested the creation of legal rules in the Criminal Procedure Code regulating only the possibility of delivering messages electronically to the parties to a criminal case, if they have agreed to, with the exception of the accused, the defendant and the defence. A possibility for notifying the authorities electronically in case of a committed crime was also regulated.

At the present moment, the amendments proposed in the e-Justice Concept has not been taken into account. A good amount of the necessary changes to the Civil Procedure Code are already reflected in the recent amendments to the Judiciary Act, while others (e.g. enabling individuals to take procedural actions in electronic form in an accessible manner and to the extent the technologically state allows it - in a convenient interactive mode, including for people with disabilities; settlement of special cases when there are irregularities in the procedure in electronic form; rules for affirming the receipt of electronic actions from the judicial bodies, etc.) will find their systematic place in the future legislation. The general provisions, however, related to the delivery of messages and summons and the registration of the terms of electronically delivered items should be introduced through amendments to the Civil Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure Code.

At the date of the publication of the present entry a publicly available information cannot be found on existing legislative initiatives in this direction. The lack of consistency by the legislature in the context of the JA amendments in the part related to e-Justice can play a practical joke on future initiatives of the judicial authorities to align their operations with the provisions of the JA, and in this context we call on the legislature to take measures to implement the necessary changes no later than 6 months after entry into force of the amendments, in line with the deadline for adopting the necessary rules on secondary legislation level.


This publication is originally written in Bulgarian language and most of the sources lead to texts in Bulgarian. In case of any questions on the English translation of the publication or the cited sources, do not hesitate to contact the team of LIBRe Foundation at: office@libreresearchgroup.org.
All publications and comments published on the LIBRe Stories platform can be quoted in other websites or in articles in the press subject to the condition of identifying the author, the publishing date and their source (URL address of the publication in question).


judicial reform legislation judiciary act procedural actions in electronic form electronic signature information systems used by the judicial authorities e-Justice portal information system electronic evidence electronic files electronic identification electronic document register of judicial acts Unified Information System for Courts Supreme Judicial Council exchange of electronic files electronic justice


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