On February 27, 2017, Law No. 49-VI on Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Relation to Issues of Improvement of the Civil Law, Banking Law and Improvement of Conditions of Business Activity was adopted (the Amendment Law). The Amendment Law was published on 1 March 2017 and became effective ten calendar days thereafter, save for specific provisions with different effective dates.

Among a number of changes to the various pieces of legislation, the Amendment Law repealed the infamous provision of Law No. 488-V on Arbitration dated April 8, 2016 (the Law on Arbitration) which expressly allowed the parties to withdraw unilaterally from an arbitration agreement in accordance with Article 404 of the Civil Procedure Code based on a simple notice.

It is a universal principle that a valid arbitration agreement has to be honored by the parties. At the time of adoption, the provision permitting unilateral withdrawal from such agreement caused concerns among academics, legal and commercial professionals and other parties affected by it.

The Amendment Law also introduced a few notable changes to the Civil Procedure Code. Some of these changes impose a more active role on the court in the distribution of case materials (claim, response to claim and the attachments thereto) to the claimant and the defendant respectively, while other changes make certain procedural timeframes shorter in an attempt to make the court proceedings more efficient.

First, the claimant and the defendant—upon filing in hard copy the claim and the response to claim respectively—will have to submit extra copies of the claim/response to claim and the attachments for further distribution by the court of the submitted documents to the adverse party and any third parties involved in the case. The court must send or hand in the submitted documents within three business days upon receipt. Before adoption of the Amendment Law, the obligation of distributing the case materials to the opposite party and third parties was imposed on the person submitting the documents (claimant, defendant). That person, upon filing the documents with the court, had to attach documentary proof that the documents had been duly sent at the address of the adverse party and third parties.

Importantly, upon filing the claim/response to claim electronically there is no obligation on the person doing the filing to submit additional copies for further distribution to the other parties. Presumably, it is supposed that the court would print out all the documents filed electronically and send the printed copies to the parties.

Second, the defendant is now obliged to submit a response to claim within 10 business days upon receipt of claim. Previously, there was no such fixed timeframe, and the defendant was ordered to submit the response within the timeline established by the court. This shorter term for filing the response imposes a bigger burden on the defendant making the process of preparation of their statement of defense more acute and pressing as opposed to the claimant who would normally have more time to prepare the claim before filing it with the court.

Third, a first court hearing on the merits must now be held no later than 10 business days upon completion of the preparatory stage of the proceedings. Before this amendment, the court had discretion to schedule a substantive hearing within reasonable term upon the end of the preparatory stage but in any event within the relevant periods for consideration of a case.