Organisation of justice - Cyprus
JURISDICTION AND POWERS IN THE ORGANISATION OF JUSTICE IN CYPRUS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court and the inferior courts established by law.
The Supreme Court was established in 1964. It took over the jurisdictions and powers of the Supreme Constitutional Court and of the court previously known in English as the "High Court" (though in Greek by the same name as the present Supreme Court).*
The Constitution of Cyprus enshrines strict separation of government powers.
THE ORGANISATION OF JUSTICE IN CYPRUS
The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority
THE JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT
EXERCISE OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT
DISTRICT COURT JUDGES
INFERIOR COURTS WITH JURISDICTION IN SPECIAL FIELDS
THE POWERS OF THE COURTS
COMPETENCE OF THE SUPREME COURT WITH REGARD TO THE APPOINTMENT, PROMOTION, TRANSFER, TERMINATION OF SERVICE AND DISMISSAL OF MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIAL SERVICE
THE REGISTRIES OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE DISTRICT COURTS, THE FAMILY COURTS, THE INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES COURTS, THE RENT CONTROL COURTS AND THE MILITARY COURT
1. Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court and the inferior courts established by law.
Constitution provides for the establishment of civil and criminal courts “in sufficient number for the proper and
undelayed administration of justice and for securing within the limits of
their respective competence the efficient application of the provisions of
this Constitution guaranteeing the fundamental rights and liberties” (Article
2. The Supreme Court was established in 1964. It took over the jurisdictions and powers of the Supreme Constitutional Court and of the court previously known in English as the "High Court" (though in Greek by the same name as the present Supreme Court).*
The Supreme Court
exercises its jurisdiction and powers in accordance with the Constitution and
within the framework set out therein for the exercise of the powers of the Supreme Constitutional Court
and the High Court, respectively.
3. The Constitution of Cyprus enshrines strict separation of government powers.
functional segregation of powers is a central feature of the Constitution.
Except where the Constitution makes express provision to the contrary, power
is exercised by the branch (legislative, executive, judicial) to which it
belongs as a normal consequence according to the nature of the specific
function. The criterion for determining the nature and classification of the
functions of the state is substantive. In the case of disagreement or doubt,
the judicial branch, as the one which is naturally fitted to interpret the
Constitution and laws, is the arbiter. Each of the three branches is
independent and autonomous in its field and acts by itself to secure its
authority. Each branch has sole competence for determining the rules of its
functioning. In the case of the judicial branch, the rules of procedure and,
the institutional provisions governing the exercise of judicial power in
general are determined exclusively by the Supreme Court.
4. THE ORGANISATION OF JUSTICE IN CYPRUS
- Justice in Cyprus is administered by the Supreme Court and the inferior courts provided for by law.
- The formation of judicial committees or of ad hoc courts under any name is not allowed. No court may be set up or function outside the judicial order established by the Constitution. All the inferior courts are integrated into the judicial hierarchy. The judges of the Supreme Court and of the inferior courts are all permanent judges of the Republic of Cyprus and all enjoy the same guarantees of permanence and independence.
- The establishment, composition and functioning of each court must be harmonious with and safeguard the guarantees of due process which are enshrined as an individual right in the Constitution (Article 30.2. of the Constitution).
- The effective protection of human rights is an obligation of each branch of government within the limits of its competence (Article 35 of the Constitution).
Justice is to be administered
- by courts which are impartial and have jurisdiction under the law;
- in the framework of an unprejudiced public hearing procedure and
- within a reasonable period;
the process ends with a reasoned court judgment.
5. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority
It is composed of a
president and 12 other members. The judges of the Supreme Court are equal in
every sense. The president has primacy.
6. THE JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the Republic. The Constitution itself does not provide for a right of appeal. The right of appeal against the judgments of every court is provided for by law. There are two levels of jurisdiction: original and appellate. In addition to its appellate function the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the areas stated below.
- Jurisdiction as a constitutional court: ex ante and ex post control of the constitutionality of laws (and of regulations), interpretation of the Constitution where its provisions are unclear and resolution of conflicts between authorities and institutions of the Republic.
- Judicial review: review of the legality of acts, decisions and omissions of any body, authority or person exercising executive or administrative authority. Review is exercised on application by a person complaining that an existing legitimate interest of the applicant is adversely and directly affected; the application has to be made within 75 days of the date when the matter came to the applicant's knowledge.
- Jurisdiction to issue prerogative writs: the jurisdiction corresponds to the jurisdiction of the High Court of England to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certoriari, which are called ‘prerogative’ for historical reasons. The writ of habeas corpus is intended to control the legality of the detention of an individual. The main objective of the writs of certiorari and prohibition is to ensure that inferior courts function within the limits of their jurisdiction and in accordance with the fundamental rules of the administration of justice. The writ of mandamus has the nature of a command; it allows the issue to an inferior court or public authority of an order to perform a duty imposed by law (outside the field of administrative acts). The writ of quo warranto provides authority to control the basis on which public authority is assumed in order to preclude and impede the usurpation of authority.
- Jurisdiction as an electoral court.
- Jurisdiction as a court of first instance in any matter stipulated by law.
7. EXERCISE OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE SUPREME COURT
- Generally speaking, original jurisdiction is exercised by a judge sitting alone.
- A Supreme Court judgment issued in the exercise of original jurisdiction is appealable before a five-member panel of the Court.
- Judicial review may, if the Supreme Court considers it appropriate, be undertaken directly by the whole court, composed of at least seven judges, in which circumstance there is no appeal.
- For appeals against judgments of inferior courts the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is exercised by a three-member panel. However, the Court may decide to enlarge the appeal panel when legal issues of special importance are raised.
- The Supreme Court’s jurisdictions as constitutional court and electoral court are exercised by the whole court.
8. DISTRICT COURTS
Original civil and criminal jurisdiction is exercised by district courts and by assize courts which are formed from members of the district courts. Civil disputes are excluded from the jurisdiction of the district court if the law assigns the adjudication to:
- the Supreme Court;
- inferior courts with jurisdiction in special fields (restricted jurisdiction).
There is a district court in each administrative district of Cyprus.*
The jurisdiction – civil and criminal – of the district court is local. The Court hears actions in which the matter in dispute arises within its district, or the defendant resides there.**
9. DISTRICT COURT JUDGES
District courts are
composed of court presidents, senior district judges and district judges. The
material jurisdiction of a judge in civil cases depends on the scale of the
dispute in terms of its monetary value and the judge's security. A district
judge has jurisdiction in cases in which the matter in dispute does not
exceed CYP 50 000 in value. A senior district judge has
jurisdiction up to CYP 250 000. The president of the district court has
unlimited first instance civil jurisdiction.
All judges of the
district court have the same criminal jurisdiction. They can try any offence
punishable with imprisonment of up to five years and, with the consent of the
Attorney-General, try offences above that limit if they are satisfied that
such is justified by the total facts of the case, taking account also of the
penalties that may be imposed by the district court.
The jurisdiction of the
district court is local. It hears charges relating to offences committed
within the boundaries of the district in which it functions.
The jurisdiction of an
assize court is subject to no local or material restrictions. The court can
try any offence, regardless of the place in which it was committed and of its
The assize court has
three members. It is composed of a district court president, a senior
district judge and a district judge.
There are four permanent
assize courts at present.
10. INFERIOR COURTS WITH JURISDICTION IN SPECIAL FIELDS
- Family courts.
A family court has jurisdiction for the resolution of disputes between members of the Greek Orthodox Church in connection with divorce, separation, cohabitation of spouses, or family relations. The term "family relations" includes property relations.
In divorce proceedings a family court is composed of three members, namely a president and two judges of the court.
Every other dispute is heard by a member of the court sitting alone.
There are two family courts in Cyprus at present.
- Rent control courts.
A rent control court has jurisdiction in disputes relating to rent‑controlled lands and dwellings. The court is composed of a president, who is a lawyer, and of two non-lawyer members who are appointed by the Supreme Council of Judicature, one from each side, from among representatives of landlords and tenants.
The judgment is made by the president of the court after he has taken account of the views of the assistants, whose role is advisory.
There are three rent control courts in Cyprus at present.
- Industrial disputes courts
An industrial disputes court has jurisdiction in cases of termination of employment and for fixing compensation to be paid to the employee.
The court is composed of a president, who is a lawyer, and of two non-lawyer members, one from the employer side and one from the labour side. The members of the court are appointed by the Supreme Council of Judicature from a list submitted by the competent minister. The opinion of the president in relation to any legal point which is raised at any stage of the proceedings is binding on the members.
There are three industrial disputes courts in Cyprus at present.
- The Military Court
The Military Court has jurisdiction for offences committed by members of the National Guard. It is composed of a president, who is a lawyer, and of two members of the military appointed by the Supreme Council of Judicature from a list submitted by the competent minister.
The president and members of family courts and the presidents of rent control courts, industrial disputes courts and Military Court are permanent judges.
11. THE POWERS OF THE COURTS
POWERS OF THE COURTS IN THE EXERCISE OF THEIR JURISDICTION
THE SUPREME COURT
The powers of the Supreme Court in the exercise of its jurisdiction are laid down in the Constitution and, additionally, by the Courts Law. The powers must always comply with the principle of the separation of powers and be in accordance with the independence and autonomy of the judicial function.
The powers of the inferior courts in the exercise of their jurisdiction are laid down by the law which provides for their establishment and functioning. In this case also the legislative provisions must be in accordance with the stipulations of the Constitution. The terms of the administration of justice are the same for all the courts.
INHERENT POWERS OF THE COURTS
The Supreme Court and the inferior courts each have inherent power to issue any order which is necessary for securing their function and foundation as organs of justice.
12. COMPETENCE OF THE SUPREME COURT WITH REGARD TO THE APPOINTMENT, PROMOTION, TRANSFER, TERMINATION OF SERVICE AND DISMISSAL OF MEMBERS OF THE JUDICIAL SERVICE
- The Supreme Court is the country's Supreme Council of Judicature.
- Under the Constitution the Supreme Council of Judicature has exclusive authority over the appointment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary control of members of the inferior courts.
- A judge is retired from the Judicial Service if he is incapable of discharging his duties on account of mental or physical incapacity or infirmity.
- A judge may be dismissed on the ground of misconduct.
The Supreme Court has the power to terminate the appointment of any judge, regardless of security, on account of mental or physical incapacity, or to dismiss a judge on the ground of misconduct, through a proceeding of a judicial nature in which the judge is entitled to be heard and present his case before the Court.
(The above text is from the report presented by the president of the Supreme Court of Cyprus, Mr G. M. Pikis, to the European Conference on Contemporary European Concerns in the Internal Administration of Justice in 2000 (Athens, 4–6 June 1999.)).
13. THE REGISTRIES OF THE SUPREME COURT, THE DISTRICT COURTS, THE FAMILY COURTS, THE INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES COURTS, THE RENT CONTROL COURTS AND THE MILITARY COURT
The registries of the Supreme Court and inferior courts are staffed by the undermentioned officers or employees, who perform the duties of their posts in compliance with any instructions issued by the Supreme Court and with the provisions of any relevant law or procedural rule.
- The Chief Registrar heads the administrative departments of the Judicial Service.
- The Assistant Chief Registrar assists with the organisation, supervision, direction and control of the functioning of the administrative departments of the Judicial Service.
- Senior registrars: these head the administrative staffs of the district courts.
- Grade I registrars.Grade I registrars head court administrative departments (petitions, civil and criminal appeals, judicial review applications and reports, law publications, admiralty, district court civil cases, district court criminal cases, property management, enforcement of judgments and writs).
- Judicial officers: these carry out legal work at the Supreme Court.
- Senior court shorthand typists.Court shorthand typists take the minutes of court proceedings and write out the full transcript.
- Senior court bailiffs: these carry out work relating to the execution of judicial decisions.
- Accounts officers.
- Secretarial personnel: secretaries, office staff / typists, office assistants and messengers.
The registrar of each court issues all summonses, subpoenas and enforcement orders, files every order and judgment, keeps an archive for all court proceedings, issues certified copies of proceedings and keeps a record of all charges and fines payable to and paid into the court. In district courts the registrar supervises the management of property in accordance with the provisions of Section 189 of the Property Management Law and ensures that the accounts of the executors and administrators are properly submitted. He is the person assigned by the court for the authorisation of expenditure and the execution of judgments.
* Law 33/64;
Attorney-General of the Republic v Mustafa Ibrahim and Others
(1964) C.L.R. 195.
* Addition to the original text: See also Supreme Court judgment No 1383 pursuant to Section 3(4) of the Courts Law of 1960 (14/60) – Official Gazette of the Republic of Cyprus, No 1130, 13.9.1974.
** Addition to the original text: See also Law 43/74.
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