The Defence in the Sukhum High-Rise Construction Case Requests Judge's Recusal

SUKHUM / AQW'A — The Sukhum City Court resumed hearings on June 26 regarding an administrative case involving a petition filed by the Sukhum Administration. The petition sought to annul a resolution from November 12, 2009, which was passed by the Sukhum City Assembly.

The said resolution required the city administration to put a hold on granting permits for major construction projects along the coastline – stretching from the cargo port at Adleiba Street to the Basla River, and extending to Aiaaira Avenue, Imam Shamil Street, and Lakoba in Sukhum – until the city's General Plan was approved.

The Defence’s Petition

Said Gezerdava, representing the Sukhum City Assembly, presented a petition during the session. He highlighted that a claim had been lodged in the Sukhum Court on May 19 to invalidate the 2009 resolution by the City Assembly.

Gezerdava elaborated that as per the Abkhazia Code "On Administrative Proceedings", the court has the discretion to merge multiple ongoing cases involving the same parties into one, for joint deliberation.

In this context, Gezerdava urged the court to amalgamate the administrative claim submitted by the Sukhum Administration against the City Assembly, titled "On the annulment of the Sukhum City Assembly's decision from 2009", with the administrative petition "On the annulment of the Sukhum City Assembly's decision of November 12, 2009". He argued that these cases are of a similar nature regarding the subject matter and involve the same parties.

However, Aslan Dochia, the representative of the plaintiff, contended that the administrative claim and the petition cannot be combined as they pertain to different subjects.

The court ultimately rejected the respondent’s petition. Judge Astamur Tvanba clarified that the court may consolidate multiple cases of a similar nature if it deems it appropriate and conducive to a timely resolution.

He further stated that the petition did not provide adequate evidence to demonstrate that the cases are of a similar nature. Consequently, the court concluded that merging the cases is neither practical nor does it facilitate a proper and timely review.

Request for Judge's Recusal

The defence presented an additional petition seeking the recusal of Judge Astamur Tvanba from the case. Esma Kolbaya, the defense lawyer, argued that Judge Tvanba demonstrated a vested interest in expediting the case. Specifically, he rejected her request to suspend the case pending an inquiry into the 2009 City Assembly's resolution by the Constitutional Court for its constitutionality.

Kolbaya further elaborated that the absence of a prosecutor in the court proceedings – who is legally entitled to be present – was problematic. Additionally, she pointed out that Judge Tvanba refused to allow the State Administration for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage to participate as an interested party in defence. She emphasized that, according to the law, interested parties can join an administrative case of their accord, either on the side of the plaintiff or the defendant, if a judicial decision might impact their rights or obligations concerning either party.

Kolbaya summed up her arguments by stating that Judge Tvanba’s involvement in the case should be reconsidered due to concerns about his objectivity and impartiality.

In response, Aslan Dochia, representing the plaintiff, challenged the defence’s arguments. He maintained that the mere denial of petitions does not warrant the recusal of a judge, and asserted that there were no other valid reasons for such a measure.

As per the legal provisions, the final decision on the recusal of a judge is to be made by the chairman of the Sukhum Court within 24 hours. Once this decision is made, a date for the next hearing will be scheduled.




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