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China allows public interest litigation by prosecutors

Xinhua, July 30, 2015 Adjust font size:

The top legislature on Wednesday approved a draft legal document that allows prosecutors to institute public interest litigation in civil and administrative cases.

According to a statement released after a bimonthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), the document authorized a two-year program led by the the Supreme People's Procuratorate in 13 provincial divisions.

Prosecutors will be allowed to file a civil lawsuit against any act that compromises public rights and interests by pollution or food and drug safety.

They can also file an administrative lawsuit against abuse of administrative power or nonfeasance in cases related to environmental protection, state assets and state land use.

It was underscored that social equity, and national and public interests must be safeguarded.

Before acting, the courts should urge administrative authorities to correct their wrongdoings, or assist governmental and nongovernmental organizations to file the case.

Public interest litigation is fairly new in China. For years plaintiffs have been strictly confined to citizens, corporations and organizations whose interests are directly related to a lawsuit.

A 2012 amendment to the Civil Procedure Law first allowed agencies or organizations to bring litigation against those who undermined public welfare by polluting or infringing on consumers' interests; a major step forward in creating a public interest litigation system in China.

The revision to the Environmental Protection Law in April continued the process, allowing environmental organizations to institute public interest litigation.

Engaging prosecutors in public interest litigation was included in a legal reform plan adopted at a key Communist Party of China session last year.

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