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Vietnam: Applying case law

Ha Hoang LocNguyen Thi Minh Phuong

The Council of Justices of the Supreme People's Court has legal authority to select trial decisions and judgments from all courts which have taken legal effect in order to develop them into judicial case law. It can then publish this case law for the courts to apply in adjudicating subsequent cases.

On October 28 2015, it issued Resolution 03/2015/NQ-HDTP stipulating that all judges and jurors must study and adopt the case law to ensure that cases with similar legal facts or issues have the same settlement results. Based on this resolution, the Chief Justice of the Supreme People's Court issued two decisions, dated April 6 2016 and October 17 2016, respectively. These approved and published 10 pieces of judicial case law on: civil rights; trade; banking; housing; inheritance; administration; criminal law; and marriage and family matters.

The judicial case law on banking provides that for loans borrowed from banks, the borrower must also bear the overdue lending rate of the original unpaid debt according to the interest rate agreed by the parties under the credit agreement until the original debt has been repaid. Further, if under the credit agreement, the parties agree that the loan interest will be adjusted from time to time, the interest that the borrower must continue to pay the bank will also be modified in accordance with the adjustment of interest by the bank.

This is the first time that judicial case law has been published and officially recognised by the Supreme People's Court. However, it is an old concept under the laws of Vietnam, which follows the civil law system. The concept was even mentioned in 2005 by the Political Bureau of the Central Committee Communist Party of Vietnam in a resolution dated May 24 2005.

Note that as guided by a decision dated October 31 2012 of the Chief Justice of the Supreme People's Court, case law is distinguished from precedents under the common law system.

It is expected that the official adoption of case law in Vietnam will ensure a uniform application of the law, creating stability, clarity and predictability regarding court judgments.

Ha Hoang Loc and Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong

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