The Supreme Court of the Union is the superior court of record and has supervisory powers over all courts in the Union and its decisions are binding upon all courts.
By Naing Linn Kyi
Photo: Hein Sithu
The Supreme Court of the Union is doing its best in the fourth year of incumbent government for the development of state judiciary in two prongs for the greater good and finer development on physical aspect as well as moral aspect.
Emphasis is given to have the faith and trust of the people over the judicial system, and the endeavour is accelerated year on year.
With the motto “Advancing Justice Together for the greater good of all people”, the Supreme Court of Myanmar is implementing for the right state judiciary.
“Elevating physical aspect includes upgrading the judicial buildings, setting up proper court appearances, creating judicial training schools to international standards. Enhancing moral aspect includes the linking of Myanmar judicial officers with the foreign partners to interact at seminars with a view to gain wider perspectives. Moreover, communications are also hooked up with the ministries and the government departments to understand the directive,” said U Ko Ko Naing, Permanent Secretary of the Supreme Court.
For the implementation, the strategic plans are being drawn in advance such as that of 2015- 2017 plans and 2018 – 2022 plans, and complied according to the plan.
Upgrading physical aspects
Union Chief Justice U Htun Htun Oo on 19 October 2019 opened a new Mandalay District Court building. The new district court building reflects such as that of uplifting the honour of the court, that of creating fair judicial aspect on the image, that of in conformity with the Supreme Court of Myanmar policy, aims and objectives, that of perfect court room appearances with (21) chambers, that of retiring restroom for judges, that of restrooms for law officers, that of guestsroom, that of meeting rooms in perfect standardized enclosures.
The groundbreaking ceremony of Judicial College of the Union Supreme Court was held at the projected site of the building on Naygya Street, Zawana Theikdi Ward, Ottarathira District, Nay Pyi Taw Council Area on 7 November 2019.
“Union Supreme Court laid down the Judicial College project to build an advanced judicial institution under the strategic goal which is under the five-year strategic judicial plan (2018-2022),” said U Ko Ko Naing, Permanent Secretary of the Supreme Court.
Services of judicial courts upgraded
By using information technology–based court procedures, more judicial courts are enhancing their services in the international arena.
Furthermore, the government is advocating and encouraging the establishment of e-governance. For the advantages of the people in gathering information, compilation of court statements, collection of activities of the court, the Supreme Court of Myanmar has been providing services in the form of using information technology–based court procedures.
During 2019, tasks have been carried out such as that of the launching and updating of website of the Supreme Court of Myanmar; that of the preparation for uploading websites of judicial courts of (14) states and regions; that of the construction of “ruling content management system” (RCMS); that of easy collection on information on “Data Collecting System” (DCS); that of the Practice Note sets out the principles and framework of the Active Case Management System (ACMS).
Raising awareness over judicial rulings
Awareness enhancing of the public towards the judiciary proceedings and rulings has been conducted through media proficiency courses for the judicial officers. They are conducted with the motto such as “Developing relation and interaction with the news media and the public”. A total of six workshops had been held on media relationships through the collaboration of the Supreme Court of Myanmar and the USAID – PRLM.
USAID is promoting the Rule of Law in Myanmar (PRLM) Project. It is with the purpose of building a transparent and inclusive justice sector as a critical step to improving legal rights for Myanmar’s people in the wake of recent political transition.
During 2019, many judicial information officers representing the Supreme Court of Myanmar; Region and State judicial courts, District courts, Township courts have met and discussed with news media personnel for (211) times.
Law-related handouts and pamphlets issued at different level judicial courts in Kachin State, Kayah State, Kayin State, Mon State and Shan State have been translated into different ethnic dialects and languages such as that of Kachin, Kayah, Poe Kayin, Sakaw Kayin, Mon, Shan and Pa-o and distributed by the Supreme Court and My Justice. (My Justice is working towards increasing capacity within communities to understand and apply rights.)
Development of moral aspect
Union Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Myanmar and the Judges of the Supreme Court of Myanmar have been attending seminars, conferences and meetings invited by international judicial organizations and cooperating with the judiciary counterparts.
“In 2019, at the invitation of Minister for Judicial affairs of Russian Federation Mr. Alexander Konovalov, the Union Chief Justice of Myanmar has attended St. Petersburg International Legal Forum held from May 14-18. The Union Chief Justice also attended the 7th Meeting of Council of ASEAN Chief Justices held in Bangkok and Phuket Thailand from 22 and 23 November 2019. Supreme Court judges namely U Myint Aung, U Aung Zaw Thein, U Mya Han, U Myo Win had also attended conferences, seminars and study tours in the UK, Germany, France, Russian Federation, India and the United States,” according to Permanent Secretary U Ko Ko Naing.
Moreover, Judges from Regions and States also visited to PRC, India, Japan, Fiji in connection with judicial maters.
Judicial officers and staff members at different levels serving at law courts have been provided with training courses and also at the Central Institute of Civil Service (Upper Myanmar and Lower Myanmar), and other departmental courses conducted by other ministries.
Among the judicial officers, the foreign trainees have been selected and sent to Australia, UK, Japan, South Korea, and PRC in pursue of Master’s Degree and PhD Degree. In accordance with the MOU signed on 9 October 2014 between Singapore Legal Affairs Ministry and the Supreme Court of Myanmar, judicial officers from Myanmar have been sent for the ninth times to conduct joint study at Singaporean Courts.
In accordance with the MOU signed between the Supreme Court of Myanmar and the Indian National Judiciary Academy, the judges and law officers from Myanmar numbering (40) have been sent to India for capacity building propose at Bhopal National Judiciary Academy from 23 to 29 August 2019.
Law Officers are mostly sent to Singapore, Thailand, Japan, PRC, and the Philippines for short term trainings and seminars.
The Supreme Court of Myanmar has laid down judicial strategic plan for five years (2018-2022) and making systematic reforms. The relevant performances have been reported beginning 2016.
Law courts at different levels have undergone reforms in structure as well in essence, and that the government has been providing with finance, budget, human resources and technical assistance.
Judiciary Strategic Plan
Judiciary strategic plan for 2018 – 2022 has been lain down for further implementation with the reform motto such as ““Advancing Justice Together for the greater good of all people” by the Supreme Court of Myanmar.
Handling Criminal Cases
Law courts at different level have disposed and made final judgments on cases over (99 point 57) per cent from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019, the per centage is higher than the last year figure of (98) per cent. With a view to accomplish (100) per cent in 2020, priority is being given in this context.
Case Management Programme
Beginning 1 August 2018, the Case Management Programmes for criminal cases had started at different law courts in the states and regions, and that a total of (99) law courts have taken up and handled to January 2020. In July 2020, the programmes would be carried out at (109) township courts. During 2019, township law courts in Yangon East District and Yangon West District have started to handle the Case Management Programmes, which led the popularity of such system.
Therefore, percentage of cases disposed come up to (97 point 5) percent. “Case Management Programmes” shows efficacy and that the year 2019 saw case disposal on (109) percent in criminal cases and (139) per cent in civil cases, totaling (124) percent.
Court-Led Mediation Pilot Programme
The “Launching Ceremony on Court-Led Mediation Pilot Programme” is held by the Supreme Court of the Union at Myanmar International Convention Center-II (MICC-II) in Nay Pyi Taw on 27 February 2019.
At the ceremony, the Chief Justice of the Union, in his opening speech, stated that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms were being used in many countries since years ago and ADR system plays a vital role not only for the public’s access to justice but also for the business opportunity of the country. As Myanmar people are being familiar with the amicable dispute resolution mechanism, the Supreme Court of the Union has tried to set up the Court- Led Mediation System since its first judicial strategic plan (2015-2017).
“Review made on 28 February 2020, the cases handed over to dispose off through Court- Led Mediation System had been successful on (24 point 02) per cent. Among the civil cases (16 point 29) percent had been settled. Many more cases were also disposed off successfully.” according to Director-General Daw Tin Nwe Soe.
The system would be applied in the whole country beginning 2022.
Changing of ruling authority at Judicial Courts
On 26 July 2019, the Supreme Court of Myanmar has issued Notification No (688/2019); (689/2019); (690/2019) with regard to the juvenile cases. In accord with the Child Law, the Township courts are conferred with powers to handle juvenile case. A separate Juvenile Court (Yangon Region) has been constituted to try juvenile cases that occur in 20 townships in the Yangon City Development Area. A separate Juvenile Court (Mandalay Region) has been constituted to try juvenile cases that occur at 5 townships in Mandalay City Development Area. Other townships have been constituted to try juvenile cases.
The Supreme Court of Myanmar on 16 December 2019 issued Notification No (1083/2019), and formed “Wa” Self-Administered Division Law Court to handle criminal cases and civil cases occurred in relevant townships.
In 2018, various laws numbering (52) types under the purview of the Supreme Court of Myanmar have been amended, issued by-laws, drafted new laws.
On 20 August 2019, Union Parliament vide union law number (25/2019) recorded the 4th Amendment Bill on Union Judiciary Law. On 14 February 2020, Myanmar passed its new Insolvency Law, which aims to introduce a modern insolvency regime for investors and entrepreneurs. The law aims to protect micro, small, and medium enterprises by focusing on corporate rescue and debt rehabilitation.
Inspection of prisons
Union Chief Justice, Judges from Supreme Court of Myanmar, judges from States and Regions and Districts have visited and inspected various prisons in the country for (76) times. They inspected detention cells police stations for (637) times. They also inspected labor camps for (49) times. During the inspections, they called for the rights of the prisoners and related issues. Necessary directives were given, and that more cooperation is being exerted.
Improving Judicial tasks
Tasks being carried out for rule of law are as follows.
1. Case disposal and final judgment have been made to achieve (99 point 57) per cent.
2. Timely completion of cases and judgment in line with justice handled at five district courts and (43) township courts in expediting the matters.
3. Legal aid groups are formed in addition to reorganization of such groups in the states and regions as well as townships.
4. With a view to uplifting the skills of the judges, a legal subject book entitled “Review on International Commercial issues through legal aspects”, has been published. The book has been taken up for discussions with relevant ministries as well as private sector.
5. Drafting of curriculum and office rules and procedures in connection with Intellectual Property for the use of judges.
6. Issuance of directives in connection with children, vulnerable adults and special witnesses.
7. Issuance of directives for the notary publics and the lawyers in connection with money laundering issues.
8. Uploading information on the website of Supreme Court of Myanmar on the progress and work implementation of law courts in Yangon Region.
9. Translation and distribution of handouts and pamphlets on legal affairs in seven different ethnic languages such as Kachin, Kayah, Poe Kayin, Sakaw Kayin, Mon, Shan and Pa-O.
10. Release of timely information on crime and offence at law courts by meeting with news media over the cases that people have taken interest.
11. Court-Led Mediation Pilot Programme is in progress at two district level courts and two township level courts
Disposal of cases without delays
Delay in the judicial sphere is tantamount to loss of justice. In the proceeding of a case, the procedures must be correct in line with the prescribed laws, and that presentation of both sides must be considered seriously with fairness. Case Management Programme is not being a process to dispose of the cases in a hurried manner, but to expedite the matter within the allocated timeframe with prescribed rules and regulations.
Strategic Plan on judicial sphere and its reform tasks have been referred to UN agencies and that international cooperation are being accorded from partner countries. As the Union Chief Justice is the member of Council of ASEAN Chief Justices, Myanmar is participating in the ASEAN judiciary matters.
The Union Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Singapore signed the Memorandum of Guidance as to Enforcement of Money Judgments on 11 February 2020. The signing ceremony was held at the meeting hall of the Union Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Taw.
Moving ahead with the tasks
Since the advent of incumbent government, People’s Centred Policy has been the core strategy of the Supreme Court, and implementing the tasks with might and main. Tasks included disposing of the cases in a short time at different law courts; to expand the Case Management Programme in (25) district courts and (109) township courts; to expedite the judgments on the cases in the allocated timeframe; to expand the agenda on Court-Led Mediation Pilot Programme to six more township courts; to equip the court room with special witness interrogation enclosure; to issue relevant information with regards to civil cases and insolvency cases; to draft task plan on the establishment of commercial related law court; to draw work projects; to lay out program with regards to Court-Led Mediation Pilot Programme; to create Information Technology system; to elevate the skills of judges and the judicial officers; to come together for cooperation in the tasks such as that of the reform program of the Supreme Court of Myanmar; that of the cross-border civil cases and commercial cases; that of the cooperation among the judicial organizations in the region. With these tasks, the Supreme Court of Myanmar and the relevant judges and law officer at different levels would move ahead in the scheduled jobs. (Translated by UMT (Ahlon)