In a ruling from the end of last year, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) gave its opinion on the question whether a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) can constitute grounds for repeal of an effective ruling of a Bulgarian court.
The problematic point stems from the provision of Article 239 of the Code of Administrative Procedure (CAP), which lists the grounds for repeal of an effective ruling.
The first of these refers to such circumstances or evidence which are vital to the subject matter of a case. More precisely, it concerns such circumstances or evidence which, at the time when the case was tried, could not have been known by the respective party but subsequently came to its knowledge.
Paragraph 6, in turn, expressly provides for the possibility of repealing an effective ruling of our national courts following a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Proceeding on the basis of these two grounds of repeal, the plaintiff in the case asked the SAC whether it is possible to seek repeal of a ruling if the condition of the first ground is fulfilled following a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
The Supreme Court Judges rejected such a possibility on several grounds:
- First, they point out that the provision of Article 239 para. 1 of the CAP refers to a newly discovered fact or documentary evidence. The ruling of the CJEU relied on by the plaintiff constitutes neither of those.
- However, the SAC also goes a step further – even if it did constitute a newly discovered fact or documentary evidence relevant to the case, the plaintiff would still not be able to rely on the provision, since 1 does not mention the possibility of a repeal following a ruling of a judicial body of the Union (unlike para. 6).
- With regard to para. 6, which expressly allows for such a repeal following a decision of the ECHR, the Supreme Court Judges emphasized that the ruling must still be relevant to the specific legal dispute.
- Last but not least, the Supreme Court highlights that the ground for repeal under Article 239 para. 1 of the CAP cannot be interpreted broadly.
Nevertheless, the SAC does not deny the importance of rulings of the Union courts as a whole. At the end of their explanation, the Supreme Court Judges elaborate on how such decisions of the CJEU may affect our justice system. The rulings establish a kind of interpretative case law on certain provisions of EU law, to which the rules of our national law should correspond.
In summary: CJEU rulings have an indirect influence on our national legal system, but do not constitute an independent ground for repeal of an effective ruling of a Bulgarian court.