The Act dated 9 April 2015 on the amendment of the Act – Law on Proceedings before Administrative Courts entered into force on 15 August 2015. The act constitutes a response to the common reservations concerning the effectiveness of the administrative courts both in terms of the provincial administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court. It is no surprise for any business involved in administrative court proceedings that the waiting time for the hearing before the Provincial Administrative Court is approximately 6 months (over a year in Warsaw) and 19 to 24 months before the Supreme Administrative Court.
Therefore, the act’s numerous modifications aim to accelerate and improve the effectiveness of proceedings before administrative courts of both instances. Above all, the act extends the competencies of the Supreme Administrative Court to examine appeals on their merits. Until now the procedure before administrative courts did not stipulate the possibility for the Supreme Administrative Court to adjudicate on the essence of the case should significant breaches of procedural law be discovered. In such an event, the Supreme Administrative Court was obliged to repeal the judgement and to refer the case to the provincial administrative court for re-examination. The current wording allows the Supreme Administrative Court to examine the appeal in terms of the merits if it considers that the essence of the case has been sufficiently clarified.
What is also new is the fact that the courts of first instance have been granted the power of adjudicating on the merits. In accordance with the new provisions, if the authority does not observe the court’s obligation to issue a decision or ruling within a time limit specified by the court, the court will, at the party’s request, issue a decision on the merits, if this is allowed by the circumstances of the case. Furthermore, provincial administrative courts have been provided with self-inspection powers. Until now a court of the first instance was unable to change its decision in the event of filing a cassation appeal even if it determined that such appeal is, in fact, well-founded. Currently, if, after the filing of a cassation appeal and before its submission to the Supreme Administrative Court, the administrative court finds grounds for determining the invalidity of the proceedings or if it determines that the grounds of the cassation appeal are obviously justified, it is obliged to repeal the judgement on its own and to re-examine the case during the same session (while maintaining the possibility to submit a cassation appeal against the new judgement issued in such manner).
The scope of cases that may be examined by the administrative court under the simplified procedure has also been extended to cases where the subject matter of the complaint is a decision issued as part of administrative proceedings as well as where the subject matter of the complaint is the inactivity or the protracted conduct of proceedings by an administrative authority.
The changes described above may potentially significantly contribute to the acceleration and improvement of the effectiveness of administrative proceedings. Thus businesses can now only wait to see whether the waiting period for setting hearing dates by administrative courts does indeed become shorter.