WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland's Justice Ministry plans to cut the number of Supreme Court judges to 20-30 from the current 97 and merge some of the top court's chambers, Rzeczpospolita daily said on Tuesday, as the ruling coalition pushes on with reform the judiciary.
The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party has been criticized for its court reforms, which the opposition says were aimed at exerting more control over the judiciary. The party has said that changes are needed to improve efficiency and get rid of the last vestiges of the previous communist system.
"To heal the situation in the judiciary, it is necessary to limit the number of official positions, reorganize the courts and limit their jurisdiction," Deputy Justice Minister Anna Dalkowska told Rzeczpospolita.
Bartlomiej Przymusinski, an activist judge from the Iustitia judge association, told Rzeczpospolita that the planned changes in the top court were, in his opinion, aimed at making the Supreme Court an institution that approves government decisions.
Since coming to power in 2015, Poland's eurosceptic ruling party has introduced a series of judicial reforms that European Unions' officials and democracy activists say may breach the bloc's standards on the rule of law.
Earlier this year the PiS introduced reforms aimed to discipline judges who question court appointments under new rules.
"There is indeed a problem with the rule of law in our country, but its main and dominant source are the courts that break the law and do not care about the constitution," PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski was quoted as saying by the Niezalezna.pl news portal over the weekend.
PiS has already tried to remove some Supreme Court judges by introducing early retirement rules in 2017, but had to back down under pressure from the EU.
(Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; Editing by Alex Richardson)