Examination of Cases by the Administrative Court of RA in State of Emergency Conditions

The new Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic and the state of emergency declared in Armenia by the Government Decree no. 298-N of 16 March 2020 have had essential negative impact on the operation of the Administrative Court of RA.

In order to ensure the implementation of the Commandant Decree no. 15 of 24 March 2020 on “Restrictions Applied in Regard Public Services in the whole Territory of Armenia”, the Supreme Judicial Council Decree no. SJC-12-Ո-25 of 24 March 2020 provided that, “through the introduction of a system that provides the possibility of video communication in all courts of the Republic of Armenia, with the consent of the parties of the trial court hearings should be conducted remotely / online through the all available electronic applications”. Moreover, the judges and the parties of the trial were suggested on the basis of initial agreement to postpone all court hearings with exclusion of the cases subject to immediate examination[1].

Nevertheless, an opportunity to conduct remote/online court hearing in the Administrative Court is not prescribed by the Administrative Procedural Code. According to the information provided by the staff of the Administrative Court, “the Administrative Court possesses all the necessary technical means to conduct remote/online court hearings, however, taking into account the fact, that no such procedure is prescribed by the Administrative Procedural Code, remote/online court hearings have not been conducted in the Administrative Court[2].

Under the conditions of the absence of legal basis to conduct remote/online court hearings, almost all the court hearings (with some exceptions) scheduledwithin the period of 16 March 2020 and 14 May 2020, have been postponed based on the restrictions of freedom of movement of the parties[3].

It should be highlighted, that according to the judicial informative system, 4883 court hearings were scheduled within the mentioned period. Moreover, only 10 cases have been examined in written procedure during and due to the state of emergency.

The Administrative Court has been operating under overload conditions for many years. For example, during 2017 and 2018, 23095 and 21719 administrative cases have been received respectively[4]. In 2019, overall 17977 administrative cases were received: in regard to 1798 cases, the acceptance of the case into proceeding was rejected, as for the 1044 cases complaint application was returned. In 2019, 9541 cases in the Administrative Court were closed, including judicial acts solving the case were adopted in regards to 8304 cases. That means 5572 cases of 2019 were transferred to 2020. According to data of the judicial information system, as of 5 June 2020, more than 3400 administrative cases have been filed to the Administrative Court.

In such conditions, postponement of almost all court hearings within two and more months and backlog of cases will lead to essential increase of workload both for the Administrative Court and judges, which in its turn may lead to the violation of the right to fair trial, including the right to a trial within reasonable time.

Taking into consideration of the abovementioned, it is necessary to make changes and supplements to the Administrative Procedural Code urgently, envisaging the possibility and procedure of remote court hearings in the RA Administrative Court through telecommunication means.

[1] By the RA Supreme Judicial Council Decree number 12-Ո-25, dated 24.03.2020թ. http://court.am/hy/decisions-single/530  changes in the SJC decree number 14-Ո-28 dated April 2 of 2020 were made according to which the deadline for the implementation of the decree was postponed until April 12 of 2020, 23:00 respectively, accordingly by the SJC decree number 19-Ո-42 dated April 16 of 2020 relevant changes were made in the SJC-12-Ո-25 Decree, according to which the operation deadline was removed.

[2] Staff of the RA Administrative Court, letter number ԴԴ-9-16762/20

[3] Staff of the RA Administrative Court, letter number ԴԴ-9-16762/20

[4] RA Supreme Judicial Council, annual report 2019, page 59: