The "Judicial Reform Bill" was passed through parliament on 9 Feburary after series of discussions between the government, ruled by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition party.
Meetings of the Justice Commission had started in a rather tensed atmosphere. Discussions on the "Draft Law on the Amendment of Certain Laws" had made some members of the Republican People's Party (CHP) to resign from the committee.
The high judiciary will be re-structured according to the new bill. The number of chambers of the Court of Appeals will be increased from 32 to 38; the number of chambers of the State Council will rise from 13 to 15.
As reported by the ntvmsnbc.com website, the new regulation enables the Court of Appeals and the State Council to allocate procedures to other chambers in case the workload exceeds the normal amount. Given that there will be enough members in the Court of Appeals chambers, some files can be handled by two court boards.
The law provides a significant number of employment opportunities within the high judiciary. A total of 722 staff members will be assigned to the Court of Appeals, the State Council and the Forensic Medicine Institution. In order to overcome a shortage of senior staff, members of the Court of Appeals First Presidency Board can also be elected if they were not members of the Court of Appeals for four years already, as it was ordered by the former version of the law.
One amendment is related to compensation claims. Accordingly, judges and prosecutors are no longer entitled to open compensation cases. Only the state can do that.
Ergin: Significant steps to come
In his speech of thanks after the draft law was accepted by the members of parliament, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said, "The strengthening of the high courts was an important step to prevent long trial procedures in Turkey".
"The next steps to be taken are foreseeable steps. The EU officials, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and academics in Turkey will refer to these steps to a significant extend", Ergin indicated.
Minister Ergin mentioned some parts of the regulation such as "making the establishment of compromises instead of criminal procedures more effective" and "establishing a mediator for legal discrepancies". He said that "the workload of the high courts was going to be decreased by installing court of appeals".
CHP member İnce: "You will be taken to account"
Muharrem İnce, Group Deputy Chair of the CHP, said that Turkey was not going to change for the better when the decision is being passed.
"Nobody in Turkey trusts in the law any more. You have passed on the legislative authority to the head already, now you have also passed on the judicial authority".
"You might have taken over the YÖK members with the new regulations, but you cannot take over the judges. The Turkish judges have a conscience and they will take you to account for this" (EÇ/EÖ/VK)