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The Supreme People’s Court is the highest trial organ in the country and exercises its right of trial independently. It is also the highest supervising organ over the trial practices of local people’s courts and special people’s courts at various levels. It reports its work to the National People’s Congress and its Standing Committee. The right of appointment and removal of the president and vice presidents as well as members of the trial committee of the Supreme People’s Court lies with the National People’s Congress.
The Functions and Rights of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC)
1. Conducting trial of the following cases: first-hearing cases placed with the SPC by laws and regulations and those the SPC deems within its jurisdiction; appeals or protests against trial decisions or verdicts of the higher people’s courts and special people’s courts; appeals against court judgments lodged by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate according to trial supervision procedures.
2. Giving approval to death sentence. The SPC may, when necessary, delegate the right of approval for death sentences passed against offenders involved in serious cases of killing people, raping women, looting, destruction by using explosives and other cases which severely endanger and harm public security and social order.
3. Supervising the trials by local people’s courts and special people’s courts at different levels.
4. On discovering mistakes in the rulings and verdicts of local people’s courts already being legally enforced, conducting questioning or appointing a lower level court to conduct re-hearing.
5. Giving approvals to verdicts on crimes not specifically stipulated in the criminal law.
6. Offering explanations over the concrete application of laws during the trial process.
Principles for the Work of the SPC
1. The principle of equality. All citizens are equal before the law, so are all the ethnic groups. No privilege or discrimination is allowed in the application of law.
2. The principle of open trials. All cases tried by the people’s courts should be conducted openly except those involving state secrets, individual’s privacy or offenses committed by minors.
3. The principle of defense. The accused is entitled to the right of defense by appointing others or him or her self to defend oneself in the establishment of facts and evidence.
4. The system of collegiate panels. When trying first-hearing cases, the SPC shall conduct the trial with a panel consisting of one to three judges and two to four People’s Assessors. The trial of cases of appeals shall be conducted with a panel of three to five judges. The panel should be presided over by a judge appointed by the court president or the presiding judge of the tribunal. All members of the panel enjoy the same rights.
5. The system of challenge. Litigants have the right to request judicial officers to withdraw from the cases because of their conflict of interest or other special relationship with these cases. The right of deciding the withdraw lies with the president of the court. On the other hand, if judicial officers believe they have conflict of interest or other special relationship with the cases which make their withdrawal from the trial necessary, they shall report to the court president.
6. The principle of independence in trials. People’s courts enjoy the right of independence in conducting trials according to law. They shall be free from interferences of administrative organs, social organizations and individuals.