WARSAW, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Poland's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a new disciplinary body for judges created by the governing Law and Justice Party (PiS) after coming to power in 2015 was not independent according to EU law and therefore cannot issue rulings.
The decision of the Polish Supreme Court follows a ruling in November by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In response to prejudicial questions asked by Polish judges, the ECJ had said that all justice courts in the European Union must be free of political control.
The ECJ said that it was ultimately up to the Polish Supreme Court to decide on the legality of the new disciplinary body, but it did set out criteria that the Supreme Court could use to assess judicial independence.
The ruling on Thursday is a key moment in the battle between the Polish government on the one side, and its domestic critics and the European Commission, on the other side, over the independence of the Polish judiciary. Since 2015, governing PiS has been implementing reforms of the judicial system which it argued necessary to improve the efficiency of the system and get rid of vestiges of the past.
Critics have argued that PiS was trying to control the judicial system, by putting key institutions under the control of the parliament or government.
Especially controversial were the PiS-reformed National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), the body appointing Polish judges, which PiS made dependent on the parliamentary majority. In its ruling on Thursday, the Polish Supreme Court followed the recommendations of the ECJ in ruling that the KRS was not independent and therefore other bodies to whom it appoints judges, such as the new disciplinary body affiliated with the Supreme Court, were not legitimate courts.