Provisions on Several Issues Related to the People's Court's Handling of Cases Online

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The provisions are formulated on the basis of the "Civil Procedure Law of the PRC", the "Administrative Litigation Law of the PRC", "The Criminal Procedure Law of the PRC" and other relevant legal provisions, together with trial practice, in order to advance and regulate the online handling of cases by the people’s courts, to improve the procedural rules of online litigation, to protect the procedural rights of the parties and other litigation participants in accordance with the law, and to ensure just and efficient trial of cases.

Article 1: [The meaning and validity of online litigation]Online litigation refers to a form of litigation in which the people's courts, parties, and other litigation participants rely on electronic litigation platforms to complete all or some of the litigation stages in a case such as filing, acceptance, service, mediation, exchange of evidence, questioning, hearings, trial, judgment, and enforcement of a case online through the Internet. The online litigation activities of the litigation subjects have the same effect as offline litigation activities.

The people's courts shall establish an electronic litigation platform (hereinafter simply the "litigation platform") as a dedicated platform for online litigation.

Article 2: [The scope of use for online litigation]The people's courts may comprehensively consider the circumstances of the case, the wishes of the parties, and technical capacity, in deciding whether to handle the following cases online:

(1) Civil and administrative litigation cases;

(2) Cases using special civil procedures and supervision procedures;

(3) Civil enforcement cases, administrative enforcement cases, and cases of enforcement of civil cases attached to criminal proceedings.

Where the above-mentioned cases are handled offline, the parties may take the initiative to apply for online litigation.

Article 3: [Conditions for Using Online Litigation]When conducting online proceedings, the people's courts shall inform the parties of the specific steps, main forms, rights and obligations, and legal consequences of online case handling, and obtain the parties' consent during the filing and pre-trial preparation stages. Where the parties consent to using online litigation in the first-instance trial procedure, and the people's court decides to continue using online litigation in second-instance trial procedures, trial supervision procedures, or enforcement procedures, separate consent shall be obtained from the parties.

For elderly populations using online litigation, the people’s courts shall fully respect the wishes of the elderly, give detailed explanations of the notification matters, optimize the platform function, reduce the difficulty of online litigation, guide and assist the elderly in becoming familiar with and mastering the operations and processes of online litigation, and provides all-round judicial facilitation for the elderly participating in online litigation.

Article 4: [Validity and scope of consent to use online litigation]Where the parties consent to using online litigation, but do not participate in the online litigation activities without legitimate reasons, it shall be viewed as a waiver of the corresponding procedural rights or a failure to perform the corresponding procedural obligations.

Where the parties consent to use online litigation, but then propose a change to conduct the steps offline for reasons such as a change in their personal wishes, lack of ability for online litigation, lack of conditions for online litigation, or the belief that fully online litigation is not appropriate, an application shall be submitted 5 days before the people's court begins the procedural step online,and the relevant litigation steps shall be transferred for offline litigation in the people’s courts upon the review and consent of the people's court. Litigation activities completed online have legal effect.

Where parties clearly express that they do not consent to the use of online litigation to all or part of the litigation steps in which they will participate, the people's courts shall complete all or part of the litigation activities for the party concerned offline.

Where one party does not consent to use online litigation for mediation, the exchange of evidence, questioning, hearings, trials, verdict announcements, or other litigation steps that require the participation of all parties and requests that all parties complete them offline, they shall submit specific reasons. Where after review, the people’s court finds that there is just cause, the related litigation steps can be completed offline; where the reasons are not sustained, the corresponding litigation steps can be completed with the consenting parties online and the non-consenting parties offline.

Article 5: [Identity Authentication]Litigation subjects participating in online litigation shall first complete real-name registration on the litigation platform, and complete identity verification online by verification means, such as certificate comparison, biometric identification, real-name mobile phone number association, and national unified identity verification platform, to obtain a special account for logging into the litigation platform.

Litigation subjects participating in online litigation shall properly keep the special account and password of the litigation platform. Except for evidence to the contrary, the act of logging into the litigation platform with the special account shall be regarded as the act of the authenticated person.

According to the needs of case trial, the people's court may use SMS verification, QR code scanning, face recognition and other methods to verify identities again in online mediation, evidence exchange, court trials and other litigation links. Where the people's courts find it necessary, they may request to further verify the identity of the relevant litigation subjects offline.

Article 6: [Online Mediation]People's courts, specially invited mediation organizations, and specially invited mediators may carry out online mediation activities through litigation platforms and people's court mediation platforms. Online mediation shall respect the principle of confidentiality in mediation; the parties, other litigation participants, specially invited mediators, and platform construction entities must not make audio or video recordings of mediation, and must not disclose or disseminate the process and content of the mediationl.

Article 7: [Online case filing]Where parties submit materials online to initiate litigation, the people's courts shall handle it as follows within seven days after receiving the materials:

(1) Where the requirements for case-filing are met, register the case and deliver the case acceptance notices, notices of payment of litigation costs, notices to present evidence, and other litigation documents.

(2) Where the submitted materials do not meet the requirements, the people's court shall promptly request supplements and corrections through the litigation platform, and notify the parties about the content and deadline for the supplements and corrections, the period for case acceptance will restart the day after receiving the supplements and corrections; where the plaintiff does not supplement and correct as required within the specified time limit, the prosecution materials shall be returned for processing.

Where the conditions for case-filing are not met, and the plaintiff insists on continuing case-filing after the people’s court has clarified it, it will be ruled or decided not to accept or file the case.

Article 8: [Online Response]After the people's court accepts the case and decides that the case applies to online litigation, it shall notify the defendant, appellee or other litigation participants, and ask them whether they agree to participate in litigation online. Where the notified person agrees to apply online litigation, they shall verify their identity, link the case, understand the case information, receive and submit the litigation materials, and carry out other litigation acts through the litigation platform.

Where the notified person fails to associate with the litigation platform within the specified time by the people's court, it shall be deemed that they disagree to online litigation, and the corresponding litigation stage shall be completed offline.

Article 9: [Submission of Electronic Materials]Where online litigation is applicable to the case, the parties shall submit the offline litigation materials such as the complaint, counter-claim, counter-claim, agency opinion, identity certificate, copy of business license, power of attorney, as well as physical evidence material such as documentary evidence, material evidence, and appraisal opinions, through methods such as scanning, copying, and transcribing to electronically process and upload to the litigation platform, or the litigation materials such as the compliant, reply, counter-claim, appraisal opinions may be directly filled in on the litigation platform.

Where the litigation materials or evidence materials of the parties are electronic data, and the people's court litigation platform and the relevant platform system have achieved a data connection, the electronic data may be directly submitted to the litigation platform.

Where the parties agree to apply online litigation, but it is really difficult to submit electronic material, the people's court may electronically process the offline materials submitted by the parties and import them into the litigation platform.

Article 10: [Validity of Electronic Materials]The electronic materials submitted by the parties may be directly used in litigation after the people’s court has reviewed and approved them, and the originals and originals will no longer be submitted, however, in any of the following circumstances, the people's courts shall require the parties to provide the originals and originals:

(1) The opposing party believes that the electronic material is inconsistent with the original file or original material, and provides reasonable reasons and basis;

(2) Electronic materials are incomplete, have unclear content, or an irregular format;

(3) The people's court files and archives management regulations require the original documents or original materials;

(4) According to the requirements of the case trial, the people's court deems it necessary to submit the original documents or original materials.

Article 11: [Verification of the authenticity of electronic materials]Where the electronic materials submitted by the parties meet any of the following circumstances, the people's court may find that they meet the original form requirement:

(1) The opposing party has not raised objections to the authenticity of the electronic materials;

(2) The formation process of electronic materials has been notarized by a notary office;

(3) The electronic material has been submitted in a previous lawsuit and confirmed by the people's court;

(4) The electronic materials have been compared and are consistent with the original documents or original materials through online or offline methods;

(5) There is other evidence to prove that the electronic materials are consistent with the original documents or original materials.

Article 12:[Methods and Validity of Online Evidence Exchanges]According to the circumstances of the case, the people's court may send online evidence exchange notices to all parties, through online evidence exchange in a synchronous or asynchronous manner.

Where both parties choose to exchange evidence online simultaneously, they shall log on to the litigation platform at the time designated by the people's court, and focus on issuing cross-examination opinions regarding the electronic evidence materials that have been imported into the litigation platform or the copies of the evidence materials that were submitted offline, through online video or other methods.

Where both parties choose to exchange evidence asynchronously online, they shall log on to the litigation platform separately within a reasonable time limit determined by the people's court to examine the electronic evidence materials that have been imported into the litigation platform and issue cross-examination opinions.

Where both parties cannot reach an agreement on the method of online evidence exchange, the people's court may decide the specific method of online evidence exchange based on the circumstances of the case and the application of the parties.

Article 13: [Verification of Electronic Evidence Materials]For the electronic materials and electronic data submitted by the parties as evidence, the people’s court shall comply with the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Civil Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Administrative Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China and its judicial interpretations as well as other relevant provisions regarding such as judicial interpretations of litigation evidence, after the parties have produced and cross-examined the evidence, the authenticity, relevance, and legality of their content will be determined in accordance with the law.

Article 14: [Validity of Blockchain Evidence]Where the evidence submitted by the party is recorded through blockchain technology and is consistent after technical verification, it is presumed that the evidence material has not been tampered with after being on the chain, and the people's court may confirm the authenticity of the evidence, unless there is contrary evidence that is sufficient to overturn it.

Article 15:【Rules for Review of Blockchain Evidence】Where parties raise objections to blockchain evidence and have reasonable grounds, the people's courts shall primarily review the following:

(1) Whether the evidence deposit platform complies with the regulations of relevant state departments on the provision of blockchain evidence deposit services;

(2) Whether the parties have an interest in the evidence deposit platform, and use technical means to improperly interfere in the processes of collecting and depositing evidence;

(3) Whether the information systems of the evidence deposit platforms meet the national and industry standards for cleanliness, security, and usability;

(4) Whether the storage technology and process comply with the requirements of the "Specifications for Electronic Data Storage as Evidence Technology" regarding system environment, technical security, encryption methods, data transmission, and information verification.

Article 16: [Review of data authenticity before being placed on the chain]Where the party submits that data was not authentic at the time it was stored on the chain and provides evidence to prove this or explains the reasons, the people's court shall review it.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the people’s court may require a party who provides blockchain evidence to provide evidence to prove the authenticity of the on-chain stored data, or explain the specific source, generation mechanism, storage process, third-party notarization, related verification data, or other circumstances of the on-chain stored data Where the parties cannot provide evidence or make a reasonable explanation, and the evidence of the blockchain cannot be mutually confirmed with other evidence, the people's court shall not confirm the authenticity of the evidence.

Article 17: [Supplementary Confirmation of Blockchain Evidence]The parties may apply for a person with expertise to provide opinions on technical issues related to the deposit of the blockchain platform. The people's court may, upon the application of the parties or ex officio, delegate the verification of the authenticity of the evidence deposited on the blockchain or obtain other relevant evidence for verification.

Article 18: [Meaning, Scope, and Validity of Asynchronous Trials]With the consent of both parties, the people's court can designate the parties to log on to the litigation platform separately within a certain period of time to conduct mediation, exchange of evidence, interview inquiries, court hearings, and other litigation activities in an asynchronous manner.

If a party fails to complete the online litigation activities asynchronously within the time limit specified by the people's court, they shall be deemed to have waived the corresponding litigation rights.

Article 19 [Requirements for Using Asynchronous Trials]Where the case meets the following conditions simultaneously, the people's court and the parties may record and upload a video to the litigation platform, and within the time limit specified by the people's court, complete the trial activities asynchronously in accordance with trial procedures:

(1) It is difficult for all parties to participate in the online trial simultaneously;

(2) one party submits a written application, and all parties agree;

(3) cases shall be tried following small claims procedures or civil and administrative summary procedures.

Article 20: [Scope, Methods, and Conditions for Online Trials]The people's courts may decide to adopt online video trial based on factors such as the complexity of the case, technical conditions, and the wishes of the parties in civil and administrative cases that are heard in courts, however, in any of the following circumstances, online court trials shall not apply:

(1) Both parties expressly disagree, or one party disagrees with justified reasons;

(2) Both parties clearly do not have the technical conditions and ability to participate in online court trials;

(3) It is necessary to ascertain the identity, verify the original documents, and inspect the physical materials through the on-site trial;

(4) The case is difficult and complicated, the evidence is numerous, and the application of online court trial is not convenient for finding out the facts and applying the law;

(5) The people's court believes that there are other circumstances that are not suitable for online trial.

If one of the above-mentioned situations occurs during the trial of a case that is tried in an online court trial, the case shall be transferred to an offline trial. The completed online trial activities have legal effect.

Article 21: [Use of Online Trials in Announcement Cases]In cases where a summons needs to be served by public notice, the people's courts may notify the parties of their right to choose online trial in the public notice. Where the announced party does not express consent to online trial to the people's court before the hearing begins, offline trial is to be used. Other parties who consented to online trial may participate in the trial online.

Article 22: [Online Trial Environment]Online trials shall generally be conducted in court. Online courts should keep the national emblem, judges, and seat names in reasonable areas of the video screen. Conditional people's courts may set up virtual courts with complete environmental elements through information technology. Where it is really necessary to organize an online trial in other places than a a courtroom or virtual court due to special circumstances, it shall be reported to the president of the court for approval.

To participate in an online trial, trial participants shall choose a quiet and relatively enclosed place with suitable light and good network signal and without interference, they must not participate in trials in a place that may affect the audio and video effects of the trial or compromise the seriousness of the trial.

Where the online trial environment does not meet the requirements, the people's court may require them to make corrections, where trial participants refuse to make corrections or still do not meet the requirements after adjustment, the people's court may take measures such as admonition, order to withdraw from the online trial, and fines, depending on the severity of the circumstances.

Article 23: [Online Trial Discipline]During the online trial process, court attendants shall keep their communication equipment muted or turned off, obey the instructions of the judges, respect judicial etiquette, observe court discipline, and must not display behavior prohibited by Article 17 of the "People's Court Rules of the People's Republic of China".

Where trial attendants do not arrive on time, leave the trial hearing screen, or the audio and video of the trial hearing are frozen, the people's court shall give prompts and warnings, and request trial attendants to explain the reason.

Except for reasons such as network failure, equipment damage, power interruption or force majeure, parties who fail to participate in the online trial hearing on time without proper reason are regarded as "refusing to appear in court"; where they leave the trial hearing without authorization, they are regarded as "withdrawing from the court midway", and will be respectively dealt with in accordance with relevant laws and judicial interpretations.

Where a trial attendant does not obey the instructions of the trial proceedings, commits an act that obstructs the order of the online trial, and refuses to make corrections after being reminded, warned, or admonished, the people's court may undertake measures in accordance with the law, such as forcefully closing the audio and video functions, ordering to withdraw from the online trial, impose fines, or detain.

Article 24: [Online Witness Appearances]Witnesses and others appearing in court online must not observe the court hearings. The people's court shall designate online courtrooms, set up online waiting rooms, block audio and video signals, etc., to ensure that they will not listen to the trial of the case or be interfered by others.

Where the parties raise objections to the witness's appearance in court and have reasonable reasons, or the people's court deems it necessary, they may require the witness to appear in court to testify offline.

The online appearance of evaluators, inspectors, and persons with specialized knowledge are to be implemented with reference to the rules for witnesses' online appearance.

Article 25: [Online Public Trials]In cases where online court trials are applicable, the court trial activities shall be made public in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law and judicial interpretation.

For cases that are not heard in public in accordance with Article 134 of the "Civil Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China", with the consent of both parties, online court trials can be applied, but trial participants must not illegally record, intercept, or disseminate cases involving audio, video, or graphic materials of the trial process. Where a participant in a court trial displays the above behavior, the people's court may take measures such as admonition, order to withdraw from the online court trial, impose fines, and detention, depending on the severity of the circumstances.

Article 26: [Methods, Scope and Conditions for Electronic Service]With the consent of the person to be served, the people's court may serve litigation documents, judgment documents, and evidence materials submitted by the parties, through methods such as the China Trial Process Information Disclosure Network, the people's court service platform, the online litigation platform, and email.

In any of the following circumstances, the people's courts may find that the recipient consents to electronic service:

(1) The recipient expressly consents;

(2) The recipient made an agreement or pledge before the lawsuit regarding the use of electronic service

(3) The recipient proactively provided an electronic address for receiving the service in the complaint or defense;

(4) The recipient accepts the completed electronic service by means such as responding to the receipt or participating in litigation, without expressing that they do not consent to the electronic service.

Where the people’s courts serve judgments, rulings, mediation documents, and other judgment documents electronically, they shall inform the parties of their rights and obligations and obtain their consent. Where parties submit that they require a hard-copy of the judgment documents, the people's courts shall provide it.

Article 27: [Confirmation of Electronic Service]The people's court may, through methods such as phone confirmation, online confirmation via the litigation platform, and offline electronic service confirmation, verify whether the recipients agree to electronic service, as well as the specific method and address of the recipients to receive electronic service, and inform the applicable scope, effectiveness, and method of changing the service address for electronic service, as well as and other service items that need to be notified of.

Article 28 [Standards of Validity for Electronic Service]Where the people's courts give service at the electronic address provided for by the recipient on their own initiative or confirmed by the recipient, the service shall be considered completed when the information reaches the system where the electronic address is located.

Where the addressee fails to provide or confirm a valid electronic service address, and the people’s court serves to an electronic address that can be confirmed as the addressee, it shall determine whether the service is completed according to the following circumstances:

(1) Where the recipient replies that the service materials have been received, or makes corresponding litigation actions based on the content of the service, it shall be deemed to have completed the effective service;

(2) Where the system of the electronic address of the addressee gives feedback that the addressee has read it, or where there is other evidence that can prove that the addressee has received it, it is presumed to have completed the effective service, except for situations where the recipient did not receive the service content, i.e. the recipient is able to sufficiently prove that there was a system error, the address is not used by the person, or they were not the person who read the notice.

When the people's courts conduct electronic service, they shall make the entire process traceable in the trial system. Where effective service is completed, the people's courts shall prepare an electronic service receipt. The electronic service receipt is valid as proof of service.

Where multiple methods of electronic delivery are employed for the same material, the time at which the first effective service is completed is to be the effective time of service.

Article 29: [Supplemental Duties in Electronic Service]When using electronic service, the people's court shall simultaneously notify the recipient by means such as text messages, telephone call, or instant messaging tool, to access, receive, or download the relevant service materials.

Article 30: [Online Signatures and Confirmation]Where online litigation is applicable to the case, the parties to the litigation may confirm the mediation agreement, transcripts, electronic service vouchers, and other litigation materials through online confirmation, electronic signature, and other methods.

Article 31: [Electronic Records]Where online litigation is applicable to the case, the people's court may use voice recognition technology to generate electronic records simultaneously in mediation, evidence exchange, court hearings, and collegial proceedings. After electronic records are checked and confirmed through online methods, they possess the same legal validity as written records.

Article 32: [Electronic Archiving]People's courts handling cases online shall use the litigation platform to simultaneously generate electronic files along with the case to form electronic archives. The filing, archiving, storage, and use of electronic archives is to be implemented in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations on archive management.

Where there is no paper material in the case or all paper materials have been converted into electronic materials, with the consent of the people's court of second instance, the people's court of first instance may use electronic files instead of paper files for appeal transfer.

Article 33: [Online Enforcement Procedures]The online filing of enforcement cases, electronic material submission, online reconciliation, online inquiry of parties, and electronic delivery shall be handled with reference to the relevant rules of litigation cases.

The people's court can complete the implementation links of property identification, seizure, seizure, freezing, price change, and punishment online through the property inspection and control system, online auction platform, credit punishment system, etc.

Article 34: [Online Trial of Criminal Cases]Private criminal prosecutions, expedited procedure cases, and cases of commutation and parole cases heard by the people’s courts may convene pretrial meetings, defendant interrogations, hearings, verdict announcements, and so forth online, through the internet or dedicated networks, based on a foundation of informing the parties of their rights and obligations in online litigation, and obtaining their consent.

The relevant articles of these Provisions are applied for rules on identity verification, submission of electronic materials, online trial conditions and methods, the online trial environment, online trial discipline, online signatures, or confirmation of electronic transcripts in online proceedings for criminal cases.

Article 35: [Data Protection for Online Litigation]The data and information formed in the course of online litigation, other than that released by the people's courts, must not be disclosed, transmitted, or used in violation of laws and regulations by the parties, other litigation participants, or third parties. Where the situations described above occur, based on the specific circumstances the people's courts may pursue the relevant persons for legal responsibility in accordance with the relevant provisions of the laws and judicial interpretations on obstructing litigation, and where a crime is constituted, criminal responsibility shall be pursued in accordance with law.

Article 36: [Supplementary Provisions]This regulation shall come into effect on XX,XX, 2021. Where judicial interpretations or judicial documents previously promulgated by the Supreme People's Court differ from these Provisions, these Provisions are controlling.

 

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