Case C-614/14 Ognyanov (5 July 2016), ECLI:EU:C:2016:514.

Key point

  • Preliminary reference procedure cannot barred by procedural rules even in criminal cases

Facts

  • A Bulgarian court made a preliminary reference to the CJEU on a criminal case
  • In compliance with the EU Rules of Procedure, the court had to include the factual and legal context of the case in the reference under Rules of Procedure Article 94
  • The Bulgarian Prosecutor argued that preliminary reference violated Bulgarian law since under national case law, even the slightest indication with respect to the facts and law of the case leads to the disqualification of a judge and in the event of a bias the judge is disqualified and liable to disciplinary proceedings
  • In response, the Bulgarian court stayed the proceedings and made another reference to the ECJ whether compliance to EU procedural rules undermines Articles 47 and 48 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights which guarantees the impartiality of the national court and presumption of innocence

Ruling

  • Preliminary reference is not in breach of the Charter
  • The Bulgarian national rule is precluded by Article 267 TFEU

Judgment

  • The preliminary reference procedure is a keystone of the EU judicial system that is needed to ensure uniform interpretation, consistency, full effect and autonomy of EU law
  • Legal and factual context needs to be stated in order for the question to be answered by the CJEU, otherwise it would be inadmissible, furthermore, they enable other member states to state their observations on the case
  • The threat of disqualification and disciplinary action to judges is contrary to Article 267 TFEU