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On Monday, 13 March 2023, The Andean Community Court of Justice (ACC) ruled on the “interpretative criterion of the clarified act”. This marks a big change in the features of a unique legal structure. So what is the "Clarified Act” Doctrine adopted by the Andean Court of Justice?
According to the new Act, "Prejudicial Interpretation (PI)" by the Andean Court will no longer be necessary in cases related to public goods, health, industrial property, intellectual property, and competition. This is applicable across the Andean Community member states in South America- Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia.
Let's start at the beginning and take a look at why this is a significant and relevant change.
The group of people and nations known as The Andean Community spans present-day Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. This classification is not based on modern political borders. It represents a deep shared history and culture of the communities in these areas.
But for the modern world, it is an internationally recognized organization. It protects the interests of 115 million Andean citizens while also preserving their community values.
Various smaller bodies and institutions make up the Andean Integration System (SAI). Its goal is to achieve comprehensive, balanced, and autonomous development.
The Cartagena Agreement (1969) outlines the objectives of SAI. It defines its institutional system and establishes its processes and policies.
The Court of Justice of the Andean Community is the supranational, jurisdictional body of the Andean Community. It's also known as the Andean Tribunal. It aims to uphold Andean community law and ensure its fair application in the member states. It settles any disputes between the member states with a policy-making body, and with people in its jurisdiction.
The Community law is held above local or national legal systems (including constitutional laws). In cases of conflict between the two, community law gets preference. But, this doesn't imply that the national court ruling is invalid. Only that it is subject to interpretation as per the community laws.
This gave rise to the practice of prejudicial interpretation.
A prejudicial interpretation is a ruling by the Andean Court which explains how a Community law matter should be interpreted. Such interpretation must be requested by the national judges of the member countries. Especially in cases that allegedly violate community law. Before issuing a decision, a judge must request the tribunal to interpret the Andean law applicable to the case.
The authority of the Andean court supersedes national and international law. If the decisions of the international courts or regional courts differ from those of the Andean court, the latter takes precedence.
The Andean Court of Justice is a key part of the region's legal system. It has issued more than 6000 preliminary interpretations to date.
The doctrine and use of the ‘clarified act’ was introduced in the Andean Court of Justice in Case 391-IP-2022. The doctrine states
"If the Andean Court of Justice has already explained the object, content, and scope of a Community rule (in a preliminary ruling or interpretation), and there is no reason to suppose that the court will change its jurisprudence, it makes no sense to request a new interpretation of the same rule simply to obtain the same answer from the court."
This means that preliminary rulings will no longer be mandatory in similar cases. The obligation to make such requests has been removed in some cases. For instance, if the Andean Court has already issued preliminary rulings that define the object, content, and scope of a given article of Andean law. This interpretation can act as a precedent.
The doctrine of the “clarified act” will have a direct effect on the Andean justice system. It'll help to speed up judicial processes significantly. It'll also clear the backlog of pending proceedings with the Andean Council. This frees up the Andean judges to work on cases in which there has been no prior interpretation. This in turn will make their work more relevant and improve Andean jurisprudence.
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Amrusha is a versatile professional with over 12 years of experience in journalism, broadcast news production, and media consulting. Her impressive career includes collaborating extensively with prominent global enterprises. She garnered recognition for her exceptional work in producing acclaimed shows for Bloomberg, a renowned business news network. Notably, these shows have been incorporated into the esteemed curriculum of Harvard Business School. Amrusha's expertise also encompassed a 4-year tenure as a consultant at Omidyar Network, a leading global impact investing firm. In addition, she played a pivotal role in the launch and content strategy management of the startup Live History India.