Updated at 1.40pm

Europe’s top court came one step closer to having its say about Malta's system of appointing judges and magistrates on Monday, with a judge finalising his referral to the European Court of Justice. 

The pronouncement was delivered on Monday by Mr Justice Mark Chetcuti presiding over the case filed by civil society group Repubblika, who is claiming that the current system of judicial appointments, allowing “arbitrary discretion” to the Prime Minister, breaches EU law.

When the parties were reconvened on Monday, the Court presented them with a final version of the note of referral, including the questions to be put to the ECJ and a request for the referral to be handled with urgency.

This matter was not merely one of national interest but possibly also concerned the European juridical system, said the Court, in its final order for referral.

“On a domestic level, this case was effecting the way forward of cases and legal certainty of judgments already delivered by various courts, including by those members of the judiciary appointed in April 2019,” observed the Court.

“The very foundations of the current judicial system was being placed in serious doubt on account of this issue concerning the constitutional framework of the Maltese State,” said Mr Justice Chetcuti, pointing out further that in the coming months a number of judges would be reaching retire age.

“Failure to substitute them would create additional pressure on the rest of the Judges and Magistrates at the detriment of the fundamental right to a fair hearing within a reasonable time.” 

In the light of such considerations, Mr Justice Chetcuti requested the ECJ to adopt an accelerated procedure in terms of the European Court’s rules of procedure. 

Meanwhile, former PL Minister Joseph Brincat, who had intervened in Repubblika’s popular action, informed the Court that he was formally withdrawing his application to file a reply in the case, observing that this no longer made sense once the case was being referred to the ECJ.

Proceedings before the First Hall, Civil Court were adjourned sine die pending the pronouncement of the European Court. 

Lawyers Simon Busuttil, Jason Azzopardi and Karol Aquilina assisted Repubblika. 


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