Parliament, dominated by Georgian Dream coalition, overturned a presidential veto on judicial council bill on May 1 with 91 votes to 26.
Also on May 1 the GD parliamentary majority agreed not to override another vetoed bill, which envisaged a controversial proposal restricting a defendant’s right in choosing between trial by jury and a judge.
The Parliament’s 91-26 vote on judicial council bill was two more than the three-fifth majority of sitting lawmakers (89) required to overturn a presidential veto.
The bill, envisaging reforming of High Council of Justice will now again be sent to the President for signature and if the latter refuses to the sign it within seven working days, the Parliamentary Chairman Davit Usupashvili is authorized to sign the bill into law.
Usupashvili said on April 30 that the UNM parliamentary minority group might take the bill to the Constitutional Court in an attempt to drag out its enforcement; Usupashvili, however, said GD was determined in putting the reform of High Council of Justice in place and would defend the bill in the Constitutional Court in case of appeal.
According to president's objections, the bill was returned back to the legislative body because the Parliament “has not taken into consideration” recommendations from the Council of Europe's advisory body for legal affairs, Venice Commission. One of the President’s main objections concerned termination of authority of 13 out of 15 sitting members of the HCoJ, whose current membership does not comply with planned new criteria.
President’s objections were rejected with 82 votes to 29. A separate vote was then held to override the veto.
Coalition for an Independent and Transparent Judiciary, uniting over thirty non-governmental and media organizations, said after the President vetoed judicial council bill that the proposed legislative amendment “unarguably empowers judiciary and increases possibility for its independence”, adding that “timely enactment of the bill is of vital importance for the judicial system.”
But there was a criticism from the civil society groups in respect of another bill, which was also vetoed by the President and which, in case of enacting, would have deprived a defendant upper hand in choosing to be tried by jury or a judge.
There was no unanimous support towards this bill even within the GD parliamentary majority when it was passed by the Parliament in early April, as some of its members, including parliament speaker Usupashvili and some others from the Republican Party, did not vote for it.
Four lawmakers voted for overriding the presidential veto on jury trial-related bill and 25 were against.