Latest developments related to Rustavi2 court case provide grounds for concern
We would like to express our concern over the apparent signs of political interest and influence illustrated by the developments on June 22nd, related to the Rustavi 2 TV lawsuit. In particular, we mean the deliberate acceleration of the processes by the Court, which resulted in decreasing of the period of time allocated to the sides to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeals in the Supreme Court of Georgia.
The Court of Appeals, on its own initiative, notified the parties of its decision by mail, in accelerated mode. Notably, it is not the responsibility of the Court to proactively inform the parties of its decision, rather, Parties themselves should collect the decisions in the Court. The Court’s decision to send out the rulling through mail may serve the purpose of limiting the sides’ ability to fully utilize the legally provided timeframe for challenging the decision. Thus, we can conclude that the Court’s action has reduced the time allocated to Rustavi 2 for the appeal by 18 days.
The serving of the copy of the decision to the parties is regulated by Article 2591 of the Civil Procedure Code of Georgia, which states that “If a person authorized to appeal a decision is attending the announcement of the decision or if this person was informed of the date of the announcement of the decision then, according to the legislation of Georgia, the party (its representative) intending to appeal the decision shall be obliged to appear in court not earlier than 20 and not later than 30 days after the announcement of the operative part of the decision to accept a copy of the decision. Otherwise, the time limit for appeal shall be calculated from the 30th day after the decision has been announced. This time limit may not be extended or restored” (unofficial translation).
According to the legislation, it is within the rights of the parties to fully use the time limit for appeal and receive the copies of the Court’s decision not earlier than 20 and not later than 30 days, including the 30th day. According to the statements of Rustavi 2 TV’s general director, Nika Gvaramia, as well as the Karamanashvili brothers and the lawyers of Rustavi 2 TV, they had planned to exercise this right as to begin the 21-day time limit countdown for appealing to the Supreme Court as late as possible.
It is an unprecedented fact for the Court of Appeals to prepare the argumentations for the decision in such a short period of time and proactively deliver the copies of the decisions to the parties. No such action has been observed towards other cases. Based on this and the background of violations of the Court of the First Instance, suspicions of possible political meddling in the affairs of the court seem to be confirmed. In the period of the pre-electoral campaign, this is an issue of grave concern. Events which may affect the editorial policy of an opposition-leaning TV channel in the run-up to the elections can damage the quality of democracy and pluralistic media environment in the country.