Speech at a Meeting to Mark the 80th Anniversary of the Supreme Court 2003-01-24 00:00:00 Hall of Columns, Moscow Vladimir Putin: I would like to offer heartfelt congratulations on the 80th anniversary of the Supreme Court of Russia. I wish the judges and the members of the court’s staff professional and personal success. We are indeed marking a momentous date. The creation of the highest court is a milestone in the development of the justice system. But we know that the history of the justice system in this country did not begin in 1923 or in 1922. And the road towards an independent judiciary in Russia has been arduous. Today of course we can remember many reforms in this sphere; first, the court reform of 1864, and, importantly, the principles of adversarial and open justice. However, the Constitution of 1993 has played a huge role in the formation of the new Russian court system. It created the initial base for the democratisation of the court and the emergence of the justice system capable of protecting the rights and freedoms of citizens, capable of providing true judicial protection, including the protection of private property. You know that the legislative framework that regulates the administration of justice has been substantially renewed recently with the adoption of the Criminal Procedural, Civil Procedural and Arbitration Procedural Codes as well as the Code on Administrative Offenses. The Supreme Court has been actively involved in this work. The package of laws adopted has many provisions aimed at making judges more independent, strengthening the courts and improving their work. It has to be noted that the Supreme Court’s practice of applying the law has formed the basis of many laws and, especially important, made justice accessible to citizens and provided them with greater opportunities for protecting their rights. The introduction of the new Criminal Procedural Code is an example in point. It is just six months since it was put in place, and its mechanisms are already up and running. The number of people in custody has dropped substantially. The number of people kept in pre-charge detention has dropped by more than 20%. The number of acquittals has almost tripled, which is logical considering the introduction of the adversarial principle in the courts of law and a more thorough attitude towards the investigation. The building of a strong judiciary and of an effective court system is a process that cannot be limited to any specific period of time. And of course we will continue this work together. Among the pressing tasks are the formation of trial juries, increasing the number of justices of the peace and improving the performance of all judges. I believe that the Supreme Court can and must play a special consolidating role in solving these tasks. Also, making the work of the judges more transparent is a key task. Obviously, openness to society is a key factor in fostering confidence in the courts of law and enhancing their authority. The quality of judges takes on particular importance in this regard. It is important to make sure that the introduction of contests to fill the vacancies of judges and the inclusion of independent representatives on the screening panels does not end up being a mere formality and that it all works in the interests of strengthening the justice system. I hope that some other measures taken in the course of the ongoing reform of the judiciary will help to improve the work of the courts. Thus, the general jurisdiction courts last year received an additional 3,000 positions for judges and more than 7,000 staff positions. I hope that that will go some way to relieve the huge load that every judge has today, which would improve the quality of their work as a whole. To conclude my remarks I would like to stress the importance of educational work. Turning to the justice system to protect their rights must become not only clear and accessible, but habitual for our citizens. That is a challenge for all the branches of power. However, the judges, in particular the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, could provide the focus for that work. I would like to stress again that the standard and quality of the work of the courts today determines the social-political situation inside the country and, without exaggeration, the attitude to Russia in the world. This should be borne in mind as we go about our day-to-day business. This should be borne in mind when we make plans for the further strengthening of the justice system in our country. Obviously, the quality and content of all the elements of the reform of the judiciary depend to a great extent on the position of the Supreme Court of Russia. I am confident that you will continue to be staunch supporters of the rule of law and ensure the protection of the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens. From the bottom of my heart I wish you success. Once again, I congratulate you on your anniversary.