At the end of July 2017, a law amending the Administrative Procedure Code (APC) was adopted at first reading, including important and significant changes aimed at modernizing and speeding up the administrative process and the administration of justice.
Тhe introduction of e-Justice is leading in these amendments. The purpose of electronic submission of summons, documents and messages is to speed up the examination of cases and to prevent cases of their unjustified suspending. If the amendments enter into force, the code will be the first of the three procedural laws, which will explicitly introduce the notification, coupled with the delivery of relevant documents and court acts, electronically.
Another of the envisaged amendments is related to the introduced in 2016 “administrative contract”, by refining its rules and clearly indicating the grounds for its invalidity. This type of contract represents a written agreement between an administrative body and citizens or organizations by virtue of which rights and obligations arise, change or terminate. What is specific about it is that at least one of the parties is always subject to public authority. When examining disputes concerning its validity, the administrative courts will be entrusted with a special jurisdiction to hear cases of civil character.
Innovations are also proposed concerning the institute of agreement. Such may be concluded by the parties to the proceedings before the administrative authorities if its texts do not contradict the law. In order to ensure more clarity in the implementation of the institute, the APC defines the term “agreement” in Art. 20, Para 1 of the APC. Additions to the field of agreement are also provided in relation to its invalidity, by explicitly listing the grounds for its occurrence.
The law amending and supplementing the Code contains a detailed organization of the institute of tacit consent. It creates a prerequisite for a gradual transition from a presumption of silent refusal to a presumption of tacit consent in the appropriate cases. The idea is to ignore the inaction of the administration and abruptly reduce the administrative burden.
It proposes the increase of fees for cassation appeals in administrative cases and in cases for annulment of enforced decisions in administrative cases. The amendments make provision for the fee for administrative cases with a certain material interest to be set at 1% of the material interest, but not exceeding BGN 3400. For amounts over BGN 10 million the fee shall not exceed BGN 9000.
Among the proposed innovations is the requirement for the cassation appeal to be countersigned by a lawyer, a legal adviser or the appellant or his representative when he has legal degree, as a condition for the regularity of the referral of the cassation instance. This requirement is introduced in order to minimize irregular litigations. Countersigning, as a condition for the regularity of a cassation appeal, is part of the Code of Civil Procedure (Article 284, para 2 of the civil procedure code (CPC) and has been successful in civil and commercial matters for years.
Another of the introduced amendments concerning the cassation appeal is the regulation of the possibilities to hold a closed court hearing. It should be noted that the parties have already been entitled to a public hearing before the first instance court and the court of cassation will be able to consult the minutes of the hearings.
If they are finally adopted, the amendments to the Administrative Procedure Code should enter into force on January 1, 2019.
author: Kristina Vezenkova