10 Novel Features of the French Judiciary – Explained!

The French Judicial System presents some novel features which can be described as under:

1. Subordinate Position of Judiciary:

The principle of separation of powers did not find favour with the framers of the French Constitution. As such, in the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, Judiciary has been given a subordinate position, subordinate to the executive. The composition of the Judiciary has been left in the hands of the Government. Judges in France work under the Minister of the Judicial Department. However, after the creation of the Higher Council of Magistracy and a special statute for the membership of the judicial bodies, the independence of the Judiciary has been somewhat strengthened.

2. Codified Laws:

A special feature of the French Judicial System is the existence of laws in the form of codes. The credit for the codification of all the laws goes to Napoleon for it was he who ordered the codification of all laws of France.

The law codes of France are of the following five types:

1. Penal Code,

2. Civil Code,

3. Commercial Code,

4. Criminal Procedure Code, and

5. Civil Procedure Code.

3. No Separate Courts for Civil and Criminal Cases:

Unlike the practice being followed in India and Britain where separate courts for civil and criminal cases exist, in France each court can hear both civil and criminal cases. Only one court, the Cassation Court is an exception to this rule.

4. Principle of College-ability:

Another feature of the French Judicial System is that here the system of hearing cases by a minimum of three judges prevails. In every court, several judges collectively hear the case and give judgement. This is known as the principle of college-ability. This principle has been accepted in view of the French belief that one judge and not a number of them can be corrupted.

5. Difference between Ordinary Laws and Administrative Laws:

In sharp contrast to the practice prevailing in India and Britain, two categories of laws operate in France-one for ordinary citizens and the other for government servants. Ordinary citizens are under ordinary laws and ordinary courts while the civil servants are under the Administrative law and the administrative courts. Thus, in France, a distinction is made between ordinary citizens and government servants. Dicey believes that this constitutes a violation of the principle of the Rule of Law.

6. Difference between Ordinary (Judicial) Courts and Administrative Courts:

Corresponding to the existence of two separate systems of laws for ordinary citizens and administrative officials, there are in operation two types of courts—Ordinary courts and Administrative Courts. Ordinary courts decide cases involving ordinary citizens and Administrative Courts decide cases involving government servants. The former apply ordinary law and the latter administrative law.

7. Right of Judicial Review with the Constitutional Council:

Contrary to the practice prevailing in India and America, the right of judicial review has not been given to regular courts in France. On the other hand, this right has been given to a special council—the Constitutional Council. This Council is a semi-executive and semi-judicial body.

8. Special Courts:

Another feature of the French judicial system is that there exist some special courts which resolve several specific disputes through compromises and agreements. These can be compared to the Arbitration Tribunals operating in other countries.

These special courts include:

(i) The Courts of the Justices of Peace,

(ii) Industrial Disputes Tribunals,

(iii) Commercial Tribunals, and such other courts.

9. Judgeship is a Profession:

In France, judges are not appointed from amongst the lawyers. A student of Law in France has to choose for himself whether he would like to become a lawyer or to embrace the profession of a judge. Judgeship is a separate profession in France. For the appointment of judges, there exists a Higher or Superior Council of Judiciary.

10. Standing Judiciary:

A novel feature of the French Judiciary has been the institution of Standing Judiciary. Standing Judiciary is a department of the State Attorney which is a part of the Law Department. Standing Judiciary consists of civil officers who strictly follow the orders and directions of the Law Ministry and the State Attorney.

It represents the interests of the state. In fact, officers of the Standing Judiciary can be favourably compared with the public prosecutors of India or in some ways; they can be compared with the Procurators who used to work under the constitution of the erstwhile USSR. From a study of the features mentioned above, it becomes apparent that the French judicial system is a unique system.

Submitted by : Professor Liliana, Category : Law