The right of instituting legal proceedings referred to in Article 16 of the Constitution is available when the people’s rights are infringed and fair legal proceedings may be resorted to in seeking certain remedy from the courts. The trial instances, procedures and relevant requisites to be followed by the legal actions shall be justified by the legislative authority under laws by taking into consideration the type, nature and purpose of the legal actions, as well as the function of litigious systems. The foregoing has been made clear in J.Y. Interpretation No. 574.
According to Article 229-I (i) to (iii) of the Administrative Litigation Act as amended on October 28, 1998, summary procedure shall be applicable to administrative litigation matters arising out of “an action involving tax collection where the assessed taxable amount falls below NT$30,000,” or “an action where the party concerned objects to the imposition of a fine by an administrative agency, which falls below NT$30,000,” or “such other action as involves property under public law, the amount or value of the subject matter of which falls below NT$30,000.” The criteria for determining whether the ordinary procedure or summary procedure should be applied when an administrative litigation is filed are whether the potential benefits receivable by the party bringing the action will exceed a specified amount or value. Such criteria are justifiable and rational restrictions imposed by the lawmakers for the purposes of preventing needless waste of the State’s limited judicial resources and expediting the finalization of disputes arising under public law so as to maintain social order after they take into account the functions of the administrative litigation relief system and the attributes of litigation matters. As such, they are not contrary to Articles 16 and 23 of the Constitution. Since, however, no laws can be so exhaustive as to cover all things, big or small, the legislative body may, as a matter of course, authorize the competent authorities to issue relevant orders where there is any need to make adjustments as the social conditions change over time. As long as the scope and contents of the authorization are clear and definite, it will not be prohibited by the Constitution.
Since the criteria for determining whether the ordinary procedure or summary procedure should be applied in an administrative litigation rest upon whether the potential benefits receivable by the party bringing the action will exceed a specified amount or value, whether such criteria may effectively perform the functions of preventing the needless waste of the State’s limited judicial resources and expediting the finalization of disputes arising under public law should depend upon the social circumstances. In light of the fact that the amendment to any law may require a substantial amount of time, Article 229-II of the Administrative Litigation Act provides that the Judicial Yuan is authorized to reduce the amount specified in Paragraph I of said article to no less than NT$20,000 and to increase it to no more than NT$200,000 by issuing an order to that effect as dictated by the circumstances. The purpose of such authorization is indeed justifiable and the scope and contents thereof are clear and definite. As such, there is no violation of either the principle of legal reservation, or the principle of clarity of authorization of law.
It is noted that, according to Article 229-I (i) to (iii) of the Administrative Litigation Act as amended on October 28, 1998, the summary procedure will not be applicable to administrative litigation matters unless the amount or value at issue falls below NT$30,000. Due to the fact that the studies and discussions regarding these particular amendments to the Administrative Litigation Act extended over a period of 17 years and that the economic and social structures of our nation experienced substantial changes during that time, NT$30,000 as the benchmark for determining whether the summary procedure should apply is obviously too low a figure. Furthermore, the threshold amount or value of a claim to which the summary procedure should be applicable has been raised to NT$500,000 under Article 427-I of the Code of Civil Procedure as amended on February 3, 1999. Under Article 436-8-I of said Act, the small-claim procedure will also apply to an action whose amount or value in controversy falls below NT$100,000. In view of the expediency and facility of the summary procedure, the Judicial Yuan deemed it necessary to increase the aforesaid amount to which the summary procedure should apply and hence raised such amount under Article 229-I of the Administrative Litigation Act to NT$100,000, which should come into force as of January 1, 2002, in accordance with Article 229-II of said Act by issuance of J.Y. Order No. Y.T.T.H.Y.-25746 on October 22, 2001, so as to reduce the people’s burden to cope with court actions and save judicial resources while also taking into account the economic development (See J.Y. Gazette, Vol. 43, Issue 11, p. 74 (November 2001)). Therefore, it is not inconsistent with the intent of the authorization contemplated by Article 229-II of the Administrative Litigation Act.
The principle of rule of law is a basic principle of the Constitution and its primary purposes are to ensure the protection of the rights of people, the stability of the legal order and the compliance with the principle of reliance protection. Therefore, once laws are amended, unless the laws specifically provide for retroactive application, they shall be effective as of the date when they are promulgated. This Court has made the foregoing clear through its various interpretations. The foregoing enabling order issued by the Judicial Yuan does not contain any special provision for retroactivity. As such, the Resolution of the Joint Meeting of the Supreme Administrative Court Division－Chief Judges and Judges Meeting in November 2007 has merely established a set of interim provisions with respect to the application of said order as of the date of its promulgation and hence it does not violate the principle of non-retroactivity. Furthermore, although the aforesaid order does not have any retroactivity and hence is merely applicable to the procedure after said order comes into effect, it nonetheless will inevitably have some impact on the lives of the people and the social order established under the prior laws. Under such circumstances, so long as it is not contrary to the principle of equality of law, there will be no violation of the principle of stability of law and the principle of reliance protection if the application of said order is adequately excluded after its entry into force. Accordingly, it was resolved by the Supreme Administrative Court that “an administrative litigation that is filed for any case whose amount at issue (value at issue) falls between NT$30,000 and NT$100,000 after the amount (value) for the summary procedure under the Administrative Litigation Act is increased to NT$100,000 as of January 1, 2002, should be tried in accordance with the summary procedure; that those cases pending at the various High Administrative Courts before said amount increase but not concluded after such increase should be re-assigned as summary cases and the parties concerned be notified that their cases would still be tried by the original sections of the courts pursuant to the summary procedure; and that those cases already concluded before such increase, as well as cases for which an appeal or a motion to set aside had already been filed before such increase, should be handled under ordinary procedure.” With respect to the cases for which an administrative litigation is already filed before the amount (value) for the summary procedure is increased, those cases pending at the various High Administrative Courts before said amount increase but not concluded after such increase should be re-assigned as summary cases and would still be tried pursuant to the summary procedure except that those cases already concluded by the High Administrative Courts before such increase, as well as cases for which an appeal or a motion to set aside had already been filed before such increase, should be handled under ordinary procedure in effect before such increase. Even though the litigation procedure may not be utterly satisfactory for a party, when it comes to the summary procedure and ordinary procedure under the administrative litigation, the only procedural differences lie where a single judge may hear and decide on a matter without resorting to oral arguments, where the appeal or motion to set aside should be granted by the Supreme Administrative Court and where the question of law for the case at issue is a fundamental one, etc. It does not make any difference when it comes to the people’s right to seek judicial remedy pursuant to law when their rights are infringed upon. In contrast to the importance and necessity of such significant public interests as the alleviation of the people’s trial burdens and the judicial economy, it should be reasonable－though somewhat unfavorable－to re-assign those cases pending at the various High Administrative Courts before the amount (value) for the summary procedure is increased but not concluded after such increase as summary cases and to continue their trials pursuant to the summary procedure, which is still in line with the principle of stability of law for a rule-of-law nation. Therefore, the aforesaid resolution of the Supreme Administrative Court is consistent with Article 229-II of the Administrative Litigation Act and J.Y. Order No. Y.T.T.H.Y.-25746 issued on October 22, 2001, and is not contrary to the principles of legal reservation, of stability of law and of clarity and definiteness of law. As such, it does not violate Articles 16 and 23 of the Constitution.
*Translated by Vincent C. Kuan.