MOSCOW, February 6 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday gave final approval to a contentious reform to streamline the justice system by merging two top courts.
According to the terms of the law, the merger of the Supreme Arbitration Court, which oversees business disputes, and the Supreme Court, which handles criminal cases and civil lawsuits, will be completed by August 4.
The revamped Supreme Court, which is headquartered in St. Petersburg, will comprise 170 judges to be selected by a special exam.
Putin initiated the merger last July, saying it would solve the problem of courts’ overlapping jurisdictions, which he has described as unconstitutional.
The reform was met with unusually outspoken, but unsuccessful resistance from some quarters of the judicial community. A number of Supreme Arbitration Court judges have stepped down in recent months.
Russia’s judiciary is routinely accused of corruption and dependence on the executive. The Supreme Arbitration Court had generally been recognized as an exception to that rule, with lawyers and businessmen alike praising it for its effectiveness, fairness and transparency.