President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lebedev, you and I meet regularly, but I would like to begin today’s meeting with the following matter.
Under your leadership, the Supreme Court has done a great deal to make the judiciary transparent and more accessible for our people. I know that efforts are underway to promote online services. I think that courts received about nine million e-documents last year. Of course, this raises some issues in terms of protecting this information and defending the legitimate rights and interests of our citizens. How are these efforts advancing right now within your system as a whole?
President of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev: If we are talking about the system in general, Mr President, there has been some positive momentum. True, last year we processed as many e-documents as you have mentioned.
On top of that, we are now making active use of integrated public and municipal services centres as one-stop-shops when working on our files. Suffice to say that we have reviewed 400,000 cases within this framework over the past year. We also use video conferencing tools in about 500,000 cases per year. As for online meetings, there are between 500,000 and 600,000 of them every year. This helps the court a lot in its work and reduces the burden we face.
In addition to this, the Pravosudiye (Justice) state automated system has been quite effective, having processed about 11 billion enquiries over the past year.
Vladimir Putin: Did you say 11 billion?
Vyacheslav Lebedev: Indeed, 11 billion, which means that people are eager to use this system when filing their requests and to get answers when they prepare their court filings. Therefore, it is very effective.
Vladimir Putin: Great.
Vyacheslav Lebedev: We are trying to offer more opportunities of this kind.
As for our workload, there has been no reduction in it. As of the end of last year, our trial courts reviewed over 39 million cases. Some would point to the fact that there was a 4 percent decline compared to 2022, but we have seen increases in several categories such as the number of bankruptcies, especially in terms of isolated disputes, as you and I have discussed. We have been working to reduce the number of these cases for quite some time now. There were certain proposals. We insisted on referring these cases to court-appointed receivers, but there was a lot of push-back in this regard, including from businesses.
Today, in the context of the instructions you issued following the meeting on our performance last year, we found a new path that would be more acceptable to all stakeholders. I am talking about simplifying bankruptcy as a procedure when the parties can agree on an out-of-court bankruptcy.
The fee charged for an appeal has been standardised. This has been endorsed by the business community, practicing lawyers, and the judicial system. Pursuant to your instructions, we have submitted a draft law to this effect to the State Duma, where it is being considered.
Another set of instructions was about humanising legislation. The Supreme Court continues to regard this as an area of focus for the courts because humanisation is something envisaged by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. We have submitted a draft law on banning pre-trial restrictions with regard to women with small children, who have committed minor offences.
Vladimir Putin: Detention in custody?
Vyacheslav Lebedev: Yes, detention in custody. Under this draft law, pre-trial restrictions in the form of detention are also inapplicable to non-violent medium-gravity crimes. Currently, the bill is under consideration at the State Duma.
In addition, we have submitted a draft law on humanising law enforcement practice and legislation. It has differentiated the elements of crime and defined criteria for distinguishing business crime from other types of crime because there used to be this uncertainty: occasionally business crimes were qualified as ordinary mundane fraud, which is wrong. This bill has also been introduced, as has another draft law of the same kind, which says that if someone serving a prison term is ill and recognised as such by a court, he or she should be set free immediately.
Currently, there is still a formal procedure involved in implementing a court decision on setting a person free. The draft law in question recommends a person’s release from prison if they are genuinely ill and if their disease is included in a relevant list of ailments.
You may recall yet another issue related to the activities of the intellectual property rights court. It was about emerging from a situation where laws define clear formulas for implementing these decisions. But a group of senators and a State Duma deputy got ahead of us, who had introduced this draft law. It has already been adopted in the first reading.
Vladimir Putin: Have they coordinated it with you?
Vyacheslav Lebedev: Yes, of course. It’s ok. It is probably unimportant who is first to table a bill. The most important thing is to solve this problem. As we see it, it is being addressed in a lawful manner.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Vyacheslav Lebedev: That sums up the results of last year and the year before that with regard to your instructions.
On January 14, you issued other instructions and we have begun to implement them. Three of them concern us directly, they are very important, and we are already working on them.
Vladimir Putin: Ok. Thank you.