Khakimov Said-Islom-Bek,

Nagoya university GSL student

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Administrative litigation in Uzbekistan generally refers to the review of government decisions to protect individuals’ rights. Since this litigation has played a significant role in Uzbekistan’s legal and political progress, this blog post explores its evolution from the Soviet era to the present. The exploration covers the initial rejection and gradual acceptance of administrative litigation under Soviet rule, the post-independence continuation of Soviet-era practices, and significant reforms starting in 2017. The blog post analyses five distinct periods of recent evolution, highlighting legislative changes and judicial practices and aiming to provide a concise yet comprehensive overview of the administrative litigation system’s development.

Soviet Era (1924~1991)

Uzbekistan, established in 1924 as part of the USSR, initially rejected the possibility of administrative litigation, viewing it as a bourgeois concept incompatible with Soviet ideology, which did not recognize an antagonistic relationship between the state and its citizens. However, this viewpoint began to change in the 1960s.

The Civil Procedure Code of Uzbek SSR enacted in 1963 introduced some elements of administrative litigation. By the 1970s, the necessity of such a system was widely acknowledged by Soviet legal scholars. The 1977 Constitution of the USSR subsequently enshrined citizens’ right to judicial review of illegal administrative decisions, leading to amendments in the Civil Procedure Code of Uzbek SSR in 1980.

Further developments included the 1987 Statute on Appealing Illegal Decisions of Officials, which was expanded in 1989 to cover administrative agency decisions. Following the enactment of these laws, the Civil Procedure Code was amended again in 1990.

Therefore, the USSR gradually accepted and incorporated administrative litigation into its legal system, illustrating a shift from ideological rejection to legal acknowledgment and formalization, albeit in a truncated form.

Post-Independence Situation (1991~2016)

After gaining independence in 1991, Uzbekistan prioritized civil and economic legislation reform to transition from socialism to a market economy. Consequently, the administrative litigation system remained unchanged, retaining its Soviet-era characteristics.

First of all, the executive branch, led by representatives of ex-Soviet nomenclature, preferred to keep the status quo by not creating a specialized court to review its decisions and conserving the administrative litigation within the civil one.

Second, since administrative courts did not exist, civil and economic courts resolved inter alia administrative disputes depending on the plaintiff’s status (citizen or entrepreneur). Hence, two separate procedural acts, the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) and the Economic Procedure Code (EPC), regulated the procedure of case resolution.

While the EPC stipulated only the jurisdiction of economic courts on judicial review of administrative acts (Article 24 clause 9), the CPC provided a separate litigation type on this matter. Besides, civil courts, in resolving public disputes, also applied norms of Law on Appealing to Court Actions and Decisions Violating the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens (Law on Appealing). Economic courts did not utilize this Law on Appealing because it provided lawsuits of citizens, not entrepreneurs.

Drastic transformation (2017~2018)

After the change of power in 2016, the new government of Uzbekistan took a course for a fundamental revision of all areas, including the judiciary. Thereby, administrative courts have been established in 2017, and until the adoption of the Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan on administrative proceedings (the Code)in 2018 the courts applied the CPC and Law on Appealing.The latter two laws were prioramended and their scope in public dispute resolution encompassed actions of both citizens and entrepreneurs.

The main factor for segregating administrative litigation from civil one was the demand to efficiently protect individuals’ subjective rights and legal interests from the illegal actions of public bodies. Through this reform, the new government, led by some representatives of the old regime, tried to essentially change the governing approach and differentiate itself from the previous one.

Evolution (2017~present days)

Following the establishment of administrative courts and the adoption of the Code, the administrative litigation system underwent a profound reshaping and embarked on a trajectory of evolution influenced by judicial practice and legal reforms. This evolution consists of five distinct periods.

(1) 2017-2019 period

The 2017-2019 period is a formation period of judicial practice and legal bases. In this period, two basic laws, the Code and Law on Administrative Procedures, entered into force. These laws had a grand influence on judicial practice.

Jurabek Nematov, professor at Tashkent State University of Law, thought that after adopting the Law on Administrative Procedures, there should be significant changes in the judicial practice because this Law establishes a new procedure related to administrative acts. Nematov was right in his assumptions and forecasts since these two laws conceptually modified the judicial practice. In particular, administrative courts began to consider the procedural bases of the administrative acts along with their substantial part.

Besides, the Code has significantly contributed to the demarcation between administrative and civil litigations. The Code has fostered the development of a distinct judicial practice focused on adjudicating public disputes through the lens of procedural legislation. The separate procedures for administrative cases facilitated a more specialized approach to resolving public disputes.

(2) 2019-2020 period

During this period, systemic errors of the new administrative courts began to emerge. Though these courts settled many cases in 2019-2020, the citizens’ administrative liability cases occupied a larger share than public disputes. In 2019, administrative courts heard 464,251 cases, 16,255 (3,5 %) of which were public disputes; in 2020 – 413,539 cases and 15,066 (3,6 %) public disputes (The Supreme court statistics).

Thus, administrative courts, established to protect individuals from administrative bodies’ mistakes and provide remedies, had become a tool to punish citizens and entrepreneurs. For that reason, in the pandemic 2020, Uzbekistan has provided a second groundbreaking judicial reform. From 2021, criminal courts obtained jurisdiction over administrative liability cases, allowing administrative courts to focus only on public disputes.

(3) 2021 – August 2022 and (4) September 2022-2024 periods

The principal demarcation between these two periods resides in the judiciary’s rigorous adherence to time limits of actions. Before September 2022, if a plaintiff failed to comply with time limits, the court dismissed the case on this procedural ground and did not review the legality of administrative acts. This practice caused massive criticism among the population and even led to the resignation of the Chief Justice of Uzbekistan.

Afterward, the judicial practice changed its approach toward the time limits, adopting a more extensive and flexible interpretation regarding the commencement and termination of such periods. This pivotal shift in judicial practice reflects a commitment to ensuring fair and effective access to justice while addressing criticisms of previous practices.

(5) The present days

In 2024, the administrative litigation system has undergone modifications only in the context of general expanding access to justice. This reform amended the appeal system in the following manner.

The interdistrict administrative courts resolve public disputes as a court of first instance. Depending on the period and entry into force of the court decision, dispute parties can file either an appeal or a cassation complaint to the regional court. The regional court hears the dispute as a court of second instance in an appeal or cassation procedure.

After these hearings, the regional court may revise the same case in an audit procedure. Then, the Judicial Collegium for Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court can review the regional court’s decision, adopted in the audit procedure. Lastly, the Presidium of the Supreme Court can revise the decision of the Judicial Collegium.

Concluding remarks and the way forward

The evolution of administrative litigation in Uzbekistan has seen significant reforms and developments throughout history. Initially, depending on the plaintiff’s status, civil and economic courts resolved public disputes. However, reforms initiated in 2016 heralded a new era for administrative litigation in the republic. These reforms fundamentally changed the legal landscape and reshaped judicial practice. From 2017, the administrative litigation system underwent several improvements and adaptations in response to emerging challenges and systemic errors. Overall, this evolution shifts the discourse from the necessity of separate administrative litigation to its substantial issues in the future.

Cite as:  Khakimov Said-Islom-Bek, “The Evolution of Administrative Litigation in Uzbekistan: From Soviet Rejection to Modern Reforms”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 04.07.2024.