In July 2020, the Bulgarian National Assembly adopted the first reading of a bill amending the Civil Procedure Code, which provides for the introduction of electronic technology and digitalisation in court proceedings. One of the bill's main innovations is holding open court remote hearings by videoconference if the parties consent.
By creating the option of conducting remote court hearings, courts and parties now have the freedom to choose an electronic platform on which to hold a videoconference since the court remains obliged to implement and monitor compliance with technical requirements for the conduct of any electronic proceedings.
Each court hearing held by videoconference will be recorded and attached to the physical case file.
The bill also regulates the regime for gathering evidence by videoconference. In Bulgaria, the regulatory regime for collecting and presenting evidence has traditionally been conservative. As a result, reforming the regulations surrounding evidence vis-à-vis the digitalisation of court proceedings is considered necessary and welcome. According to the anticipated changes contained in the bill, the examination of witnesses by videoconference will be possible in civil proceedings when the witnesses live or reside outside the court’s region and are not able to be present in court.
Experts preparing forensic examinations for court cases who work outside the court’s region will be also heard and questioned remotely. Currently, experts are obliged to be present in the courtroom and heard in person. If there is an obstacle to this, the case is postponed, which can lead to significant delays in proceedings.
In order to ensure the lawful conduct of a remote court hearing, the bill provides for videoconferences to be held from a specific courtroom, prison or detention center at the location of the persons. A clerk of the respective court will verify the identity of the participants in the conference.
The planned changes to the Code of Civil Procedure for holding of court hearings and gathering evidence via videoconference will be introduced also for administrative and criminal court proceedings.
For more information on innovations to court proceedings and the digitalisation of the judicial process in Bulgaria, contact your regular CMS advisor or local CMS expert Antonia Kehayova.