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RTX14NCM.jpg (Photo : Reuters)

To further encourage their people to be aware of environmental violators and the fight against pollution, China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) delivered a judicial clarification of environmental public interest lawsuits on Jan. 6, Tuesday, the Global Times reported.

Referring to the interpretation released by the SPC, those eligible to file the lawsuit against environmental offenders are non-government organizations registered with civil affairs authorities which have not acquired administrative or criminal punishment for the last five years.

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The said judicial interpretation will be effective starting Wednesday.

Sun Jungong, spokesman of SPC, said that the court also noted that such lawsuits can be tackled in different regions to prevent interference from local government units.

High courts could appoint intermediate courts to handle such lawsuits in the regions with the SPC approval, the interpretation noted. 

The chief judge of the SPC's environmental tribunal, Zheng Xuelin, also said that it would be ideal in the future for all environmental cases in a province be handled by a special intermediate court.

The Beijing No.4 Intermediate People's Court handles all environmental cases in Beijing, he cited as an example. 

Jia Fangyi, a Beijing-based lawyer involved in environmental public interest lawsuits, told the Global Times that local government interference is the main problem in pursuing legal action because local courts under pressure from governments reject the cases.

"Many defendants are government divisions or companies who benefited from local government funding. The interpretation is expected to crack down on vested interests," Jia added.

There are very few environmental lawsuits due to confusion on the matter, said Zheng.

In line with the new interpretation and environmental law, more than 700 organizations are capable to present public interest lawsuits, said Liao Hong, the vice director of the non-government organization administration of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

In the revised Environmental Protection Law that took effect on Jan. 1, NGOs are required to be involved in environmental protection for at least five years before they can file lawsuits.

It is still unknown if the interpretation would raise the number of litigations despite it causing the expansion of the scope of litigation subjects as it still relies on local courts' practices, Jia said.