Iran’s Modern Judicial System

About this Article

Going back to 1919 and the first constitution of Mashrooteh period, this article delivers a comprehensive report on the institution of the Attorney General in Iran. The author sees the modernization of the Department of Justice (the Prosecutor’s Office) as part of the larger project of reforming the entire Judiciary branch. From the selection of judges and revamping of their required qualifications to their specific duties and responsibilities under the law are covered here. The public perception of these reforms along with a long list of specific corrective measures is discussed as well. A considerable portion of this article is devoted to the reforms after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The changes in the judicial philosophy, the commitment to Islamic law (sharia), and the creation of new types of courts are some of the major changes, legitimized by the new constitution of the Islamic Republic, are all documented here. The history of the office of the Inspector General overseeing the Judiciary and the Attorney General’s office, dating back to 1928, is also a valuable part of this Article.

Translator’s Note: Please note that the online translation of سازمان بازرسی کل کشور is “General Inspection Office”. However, according to the text there was initially an office called اداره بازرسی کل کشور which later was dissolved and replaced by سازمان بازرسی کل کشور. Therefore, in order to differentiate them, the translator has taken the liberty to translate the two entities as follows: General Inspection Office = اداره بازرسی کل کشور and General Inspection Organization = سازمان بازرسی کل کشور

In an attempt to move away from the traditional judicial system, Ali Akbar Davar founded Iran’s modern Judiciary. Using certain legal provisions of the Amendments to the Constitution, he dissolved the old judicial system in its entirety. Article 27 of the Amendment to the Constitution amendments clearly stated the separation of power among three branches of government and Article 71 of the Amendment states, “The Supreme Court and the judicial system are official authority for public grievances.” Referring to Article 174 of the Judicial Administrative Law, Davar presented a bill to the sixth parliament for granting the authority to remove judicial deficiencies and to improve the judicial system. On 17 February 1927, the parliament approved the bill as a single article with only one provision.

Previously, with the issuance of the Constitutional edict and the formation of the National Consultative Assembly, as well as preparation of Iran’s first constitution and its Administrative Order whereby all ministers would be accountable to the parliament, Mirza Hassan Khan Moshiroddoleh was assigned to establish the judiciary branch and submit the necessary legislation for that purpose. Being aware of the chaotic situation of the judiciary, he, in 1910, accepted the ministerial position of that apparatus with two conditions1: that he, himself, be in charge of the budgeting for the judiciary as well as drafting the new laws for the civil and criminal procedure of the new court system. With the parliament’s approval, Moshiroddoleh in his ministerial position was able to fulfill both of those responsibilities within six months and presented the appropriate bills for revamping the judiciary to the parliament. His first step was transforming the civil procedures and the administrative process of the judiciary. Among his achievements were the ratification of press laws (8 February 1908); gun laws (2 April 1910); the law of acceptance or rejection of business negotiable instruments (8 May 1911); the law of approved document registration, and the martial law. Nevertheless, the country’s social disorder and political reactions of some statesmen prevented Moshiroddoleh from promoting his efforts and accomplishing his reform in restructuring the judicial system. After Moshiroddoleh the justice ministry changed hands several times and remained in its former state or even worse until 1927, when Ali Akbar Davar, a minister in Mirza Hassan Mostowfi’s cabinet, took charge of that ministry and created fundamental changes in every layer of the justice system, ranging from laws and their enforcement, to principles, buildings, even manner of dressing, and formation of courts, by dissolving the old order and replacing it with a new justice ministry.

Supported by the sixth Parliament and with full authority vested in him, Davar revamped the judicial system, which included changing the trial procedures, replacing judges and issuing new guidelines for their hiring and codifying new laws. The new Ministry of Justice was inaugurated in 1927. The extent of reforms continued for two years until the middle of 1929, when Iran’s new judiciary became fully- operational to meet the needs and requirements of the time. Ali Akbar Davar’s gift to the Iranians was the dissolution of the old judicial system and the establishment of Iran’s modern judicial system with entirely new organizations, new layers, new laws and procedures and even with a totally new lexicon. Davar’s initiatives in his quest for a new judiciary was summed up in his address to the Parliament defending his proposed bill:

“…the public opinion, the parliament’s mentality and the government’s will have always been geared towards reforming the judicial system; they never deemed the existing system to be the suitable vehicle for the much needed reforms. Obviously, these proposed reforms are based on two principles: overcoming the deficiencies based upon what experience and practice have taught us; and hiring individuals with better qualifications and higher competency level… Bearing in mind that the entire judicial system, our civil procedures as well as the judicial officers and administrative workforce need to be reformed and not until this august body, the parliament , empowers the Minster to bring about these reforms, nothing will ever change. ”2

After receiving legal support from the parliament and renewal of the bill of authority on June 16, 1927 and along with the formation of the “Judicial Laws Reform Committee”, Davar began implementing his reform plan in four areas:

  • I. Dissolution of the existing judicial system and removal of inefficient organizations and judicial administrators. In a talk during the inauguration of the justice ministry, Davar focused on the following as basis of the new judiciary:
  1. The principle of judicial unity
  2. Increasing the number of cassation courts
  3. Dividing the branches of lower courts and appeal courts to permanent and mobile branches
  4. Creating correctional facilities
  5. Reconstructing limited and municipal district courts
  6. Creating separate offices for branches
  7. Increasing appeal branches in Hamedan and Esfahan
  8. Increasing lower court jurisdictions in several cities from 11 to 35
  9. Establishing registration offices in several cities
  • II. Selecting qualified individuals to take charge of judicial affairs: To select new individuals, Davar chose a number of judges from among MPs, and some from among seminarians; he also picked individuals with law degrees from other ministries. Davar also asked some of individuals who had finished their studies or were still studying in Europe to get involved in the judiciary, and for some positions he used former and reputable accountants of the finance ministry. Finally, Davar employed a number of law school graduates to work in the new justice ministry.

  • III. Creating new conditions for employment of new judges and cancelation of previous laws: In the same speech, Davar accounted the specifications and characteristics of the new judiciary system in the following regards:

  1. Use of honorable individuals with knowledge of new sciences
  2. Restricting the power of judgement and ruling by government, and centralizing it within the judiciary system
  3. Making mandatory registration of immovable property
  4. Firm emphasis on the statute of limitations
  5. Establishing new criminal and misdemeanor courts
  6. Stressing on verdicts that must be based on new comprehensive laws rather than the judge’s personal religious opinions
  • IV. Legislating new laws based on the successful experimentation of the government enforced bills and approval of the parliament.

Ettela’at newspaper of Tehran had called Davar’s efforts for restructuring the judicial system “Dissolving the Company”3, a reference that alluded to the old order of exercising influence. That was the time when the new civil code, civil procedure code, general penal law, army code of judicial procedure, as well as the law of justice ministry’s new organization were ratified, and remedial measures even extended to the cancellation of capitulation law.

New judges were hired for this new organization from among experts who possessed strong authoritative administrative skills in the judicial field, individuals who could implement the necessary changes even on an experimental basis, people who would make adjustments and modifications as needed and along the way. Among Davar’s corrective measures that went through the initial legislative stages and eventually became part of the Judiciary Act were: new trade laws and registrations, property laws, marriage laws, the establishment of new officers of the Court, and creation of the Supreme Court of Iran. Also, establishing modern prosecuting offices and criminal courts for government agents, formation of a national inspection board, organization of Iran’s prisons, and cancelation of capitulation for foreign nationals should be added to the list of Davar’s corrective efforts.

The total number of ratified laws and regulations in the course of modernizing Iran’s judicial system and the following years exceed 220 legal and judicial approvals, with 120 bills that were prepared and presented to the parliament during Ali Abar Davar’s ministry. In the process of completing the judicial lexicon and in conformity with the new judicial entities, Davar replaced the old terminology s with modern Persian language and words such asآیین‌نامه‌ ـ بازپرس‌ ـ پرونده‌ ـ پژوهش‌خواه‌ ـ پژوهش‌خوانده‌ ـ گردش‌کار ـ دادرسی‌ ـ دادستان‌ و( bylaw, interrogator, case, appellant, appellee, workflow, adjudication, prosecutor…) entered the Persian judicial lexicon.

Davar’s reform stretched to the extent of even including the judges’ appearances and robes as well as judiciary buildings. Some of the practical results of these changes in the judiciary and court regulations included dissolution of religious courts outside the authority of the justice department system and placing them within the new judiciary4.

The new judicial organization continued to function the same even after Reza Shah. Among the first measures of the judiciary following Reza Shah’s exile in 1941 was putting on trial the state workers of Reza Shah’s period, especially his police. In another measure, the judiciary, according to a piece of legislation, took away the high authority that had previously been lawfully granted to Reza Shah. Another matter involved recovery of properties that had been seized during Reza Shah’s reign, whereby the judiciary came up with the legally effective “gift” formula in order to alleviate the public sentiment; finally, in June of 1942 the bill of “decision for transferred property” was ratified by MPs. Among other initial actions of the judiciary was limiting the authority of military courts by ratifying a single article in 1943. An enactment by the cabinet in 3 January 1942, separated, fully and entirely, the judicial branch from the executive branch; nevertheless, the lack of fundamental and extensive changes in the government structure would prevent many of the governmental entities and officials from accepting those reforms and changes in the judicial system.

Increasing the authority of military courts, especially from 1948 on, was another aspect of undermining the judicial system’s authority. A special feature of this period was the influence that politics played in rendering legal judgments, or interference of state authorities and powerful officials in the judicial affairs. Such was the state of affairs when Iran’s judiciary entered the fourth decade of the century.

The Modssadegh Era

During the reign of Mosaddegh, Iran’s judiciary assumed a different character. Changes in his time did not mean transformation of the country’s judicial principles and framework; rather, they included a series of structural and physical modifications, relevant to the political circumstances of the day, which Dr. Mosaddegh made, using the powers of Executive Discretion (Executive Authority). In that period, more changes occurred in the Justice Organization, which included judicial and administrative systems.

In post-Mosaddegh time, there was no effort to establish any particular political, social and judicial systems; rather, the system that was carried from the past eras continued with only minor changes. The majority of bills sanctioned by Dr. Mosaddegh were either canceled on the premise of the Executive Discretion or revised. In this period, the legal bill of 19 February 1957, sanctioned by the parliament’s joint committee, approved the formation of circuit or traveling courts.

Nevertheless, during the 25 years until the Islamic Revolution and change in the political system, Iran’s judicial organization maintained its former structure and makeup. In other words, in the course of 25 years Iran’s judicial system was the same organization leftover from the beginning of the Constitution and the Reza Shah era, with minimal and limited changes5.

The Islamic Revolution Era

With changes in the government system in 1979, Iran’s judiciary, like the other branches, went through changes from the former system to the new one between 1978 and 1982. After 1978, the Islamic judicial system, with its laws and organization, was established and with amendments made to the constitution in 1990 and formation of general and revolutionary courts in 1994, the revolution’s judicial system was revamped.6 In fact, after the revolution Iran’s judicial system changed drastically. During the first month of regime change, revolutionary committees, composed of former managers, were formed in the justice department to handle people’s complaints. On 8 March 1979, the Council of Revolution approved a legal bill to reform the justice department, as well as the law for hiring of judges. Attached to this bill was extensive authority to dissolve judicial courts and entities and unnecessary offices, filter them and reestablish them again. On 16 March 1979, the Supreme Court of Iran, and the prosecutor’s offices, as well as the military and the appeal courts were dissolved, and on 4 April 1979, a new supreme court was established.

According to Article 175 of the Constitution, the General Inspection Office of Iran replaced the judicial ministry’s inspection headquarters and imperial organization. This office, which was formed in all administrative entities under the auspices of the Judiciary, was responsible for overseeing the proper enforcement of laws and regulations.

According to a single article ratified on 1 August 1979, the guild system courts were dissolved, and criminal courts were put in charge of handling guild-related various cases of violation.

Following the approval of the bill to form general courts, and in conjunction with the general judicial department, special civil courts for the revolutionary prosecution office were formed.

According to Article 156 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Judiciary is recognized as an independent entity separate from the Justice Ministry, whereas in the Constitution of Iran, the justice ministry was the highest judicial organization and the justice minister was the highest-ranking official of the judicial system, who managed the judiciary from the monarchy era to the revolution time in Iran; thus the organization of judiciary had no place in Iran’s system of government. In Article 157, the overall management structure of the judiciary was defined within a council by the name of Judicial Supreme Council. In the new structure, the justice ministry’s authority was reduced, and most of its responsibilities were transferred to the Judicial Supreme Council. Justice minister had no superiority over the judicial and administrative affairs of the Judiciary; rather, it was the Judiciary’s representatives who were given the authority to defend judicial programs and the related bills in the cabinet meetings and the parliament respectively.

In the course of these judicial and legal changes, military courts were placed under the auspices of the Judiciary, and along with the Armed Forces Judicial Organization became an entity affiliated with the Judiciary in accordance with Article 172 of the Constitution. At the same time, according to Article 173, a newly founded organization by the name of the Administrative Court of Justice was established. Another post-revolution effective organization was the General Inspection Office.

During the first three years of the revolution, there was a certain amount of chaos and crisis within the judiciary due to contending judicial philosophies, urgency of judicial cases, and lack of experience of revolutionary elements. However, as the Islamic Republic regime became further established, the process of judicial legitimization accelerated. A report from that period reads, “The eight-article statement issued on 16 December 1982 by the Imam, was a turning point in the post-revolution judicial system. The first paragraph of this statement emphasizes the execution of religious laws, especially in judicial affairs; and the second paragraph addressing the qualification of judicial representatives and cleansing of the judicial system. The following paragraphs emphasize the judicial immunity and security of individuals.

To continue the duties and responsibilities of the Supreme Council of Judiciary and ensuring regularity of its decision-making processes, a regulations manual in 39 articles and 4 addendums was approved in June 1985. The problems and deficits caused by the Council-based management system of the judiciary, as well as other shortfalls in its administration, prompted Imam [Khomeini] to write a letter to the President on 12 February 1980, and ask him to hold a meeting with the heads of the three branches and members of the judicial council to examine the division of work issue and send their proposals to him.”
In the Islamic Republic, the Judiciary’s responsibilities are as follows:

  • Review and issue judgement on grievances, violations, and complaints; resolve claims and animosities; make decisions and take appropriate actions on non-litigious matters determined by law.
  • Restore the right of the public and promote justice and legitimate liberties.
  • Monitor the proper implementation of laws.
  • Detect crimes and pursue criminals, and issue discretionary and mandatory punishments in accordance with the Islamic Penal Law.
  • Take appropriate actions to prevent crimes and rehabilitate criminals.
  • The Judiciary head is appointed by the Supreme Leader and serves for five years with the possibility of extension, and, according to Article 158 of the Islamic Republic Constitution, his duties include:
  • Form necessary entities within the justice department in accordance with Article 156.
  • Prepare judicial bills that are appropriate for the Islamic Republic.
  • Hire impartial and competent judges, decide their duties, make changes in their work locations, determine their promotions, and similar administrative affairs in conjunction with law.
  • The Judiciary head is appointed by the Supreme Leader for five years without any limitation for the period of service.”7

Alluding to legal principles derived from judicial Shiite doctrines, Seyyed Khodayar Mortazavi writes,

“According to Article 57 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the legislative, judicial and executive branches have been designated as the ruling branches in the Islamic republic regime, that while being independent of each other they carry out their responsibilities under the auspices of the Supreme Leader.”8 With all the changes that occurred after the revolution, the office of the Judiciary head is the highest judicial entity in the Islamic Republic regime, which holds the most important responsibilities and highest level of authority. In fact, all judicial, administrative, and executive affairs of this branch are under the control of this entity. The duties of this entity are as follows:

With all the changes that occurred after the revolution, the office of the Judiciary head is the highest judicial entity in the Islamic Republic regime, which holds the most important responsibilities and highest level of authority. In fact, all judicial, administrative, and executive affairs of this branch are under the control of this entity. The duties of this entity are as follows:

  1. Conditions of installation, removal, and resignation of the Judiciary head: Before the revision of the Islamic Republic Constitution, there was a five-member council, called the Supreme Judicial Council, which was the highest authority of the Islamic republic’s judicial system and had extensive authority. Two of the five members, namely the head of the Supreme Court of Iran and the Prosecutor-General, were appointed by the Supreme Leader, and the other three were selected by judges from among impartial Islamic jurists. After a decade of activity, in the course of the Constitution’s revision, this council was replaced by the head of Judiciary with the same level of authority. The amended Article 157 describes the selection of the Judiciary head and its conditions, as follows: “So that Judiciary’s duties in judicial, administrative, and executive affairs are carried out, the Supreme Leader appoints an impartial jurist, skilled in management and informed in judicial affairs as head and highest authority of Judiciary for five years”. Also, according to Article 110, The Supreme Leader has the right to install, remove and accept resignation of the Judiciary’s highest authority. Among the conditions for selection of the Judiciary head, the two conditions of “judgement and justice” and the two conditions of “leadership and tact” are among the conditions that also apply to the Velayat-e Faqih and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This indicates the special place that the judicial system holds in the Islamic-Shiite tradition and within the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

  2. Duties and authority: According to Article 158 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, some of the duties of the Judiciary head include, formation of the necessary entities in the justice department; preparation of judicial bills as well as hiring, dismissal and installation of impartial and competent judges; changing the judges’ location of work, and determining their jobs and promotions, as well as execution of other administrative affairs based on the law. Other Constitutional principles entail more extensive duties and authority for the Judiciary head, the most important of which include, appointment of the heads of the Supreme Court, Administrative Court of Justice, and General Inspection Office; monitoring the proper execution of work and implementation of laws; making suggestions to the parliament on selection of lawyers for the Guardian Council; making suggestions to the President on selection of Justice Minister; monitoring the assets of the country’s high officials; making suggestions to the Supreme Leader for exoneration or reduction of punishment; membership in the Expediency Discernment Council; membership in the Constitution’s Review Council; membership in the Leadership Interim Council; membership in Supreme Council of National Security; introducing two representatives for membership in Seda and Sima Monitoring Council; presence at the President’s inauguration ceremony held in the Parliament; and membership in the President’s Interim Council.

In addition to the above, there are other numerous cases that are within the duties and authority of the Head of the Judiciary; but more importantly, a very significant responsibility is that this entity must project and plan in a way that, according to the Constitution’s Article 34, each and every Iranian throughout the country has access to honorable courts to properly litigate the cases referred to them. It means that since, according to this Article, every individual (Moslem or non-Moslem) has the right of litigation, and no one could be barred from taking his/her case to the court, the possibility of access to judicial centers and authority must be open to everyone; this is the duty that more than anyone else falls on the shoulder of the Head of the Judiciary. Additionally, based on Article 167 of the Constitution, judges are obligated to make a ruling for every claim in accordance with the sanctioned laws, and no judge or prosecutor can refuse to review a case or a claim or to make a ruling on the basis that the law is silent or there or discrepancies in law.

The second important judicial entity after the Judiciary is the Supreme Court of Iran, which shares similarities with the head of the Judiciary in characteristics, conditions, duties and authority, appointment, and period of responsibility. This entity is above the courts of justice and judicial authority and holds major judicial duties and responsibilities that have been assigned to it as have been mentioned in numerous articles of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution.

  1. Organization and conditions: Article 162 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran states, “The Head of the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General, who must be fair-minded jurists and knowledgeable in judicial affairs, are appointed for a period of five years by the Judiciary head in consultation with the Supreme Court judges”. As the highest judicial entity of the Islamic Republic regime, the Supreme Court of Iran has 25 divisions with two judges in each division and every member selected from among jurists who must have studied the highest seminary courses for ten years or have ten years of experience in legal and judiciary work and be familiar with Islamic laws. the Head of the first division, who is the chief of the Supreme Court, rules over all other divisions. The Supreme Court’s Prosecution Office consists of a prosecutor, a first deputy, and a number of judicial officers who work along with the Supreme Court to protect the law and monitor the proper execution of it9.

  2. Duties and authority: According to Article 161 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Supreme Court is charged with the two important duties of supervising the correct implementation of laws by courts of justice and ensuring uniformity of judicial procedures. In discharging the first duty, the Supreme Court, as the examining authority, is responsible for confirmation or annulment of lower courts’ decisions. As for the second duty, if various lower courts issue different judgments, the General Board of the Supreme Court, upon the request of the Supreme Court’s chief or Attorney General (Prosecutor General), reviews the matter and a vote of judicial precedent is issued. This vote would be binding and unchangeable except by law10. Therefore, the Supreme Court prevents scattered votes, exercise of personal taste and personal views in judicial decisions, and adds to the legal certainty and reliability of judgments.

The Supreme Court also serves as the appeal authority for decisions of the lower courts, and upon request determines the legal accuracy or inaccuracy of judgments issued by those courts and makes a final decision that is binding. According to a single article ratified in June 1949,

“If different decisions on similar cases have been made by various branches, the Supreme Court and its General Board shall review the matter and make a final decision. This review, which is based on a request from the Justice Minister, or Chief of the Supreme Court, or Prosecutor General, must take place in the presence of at least three-fourth of the high officials and advisors of the Court, and the decision that is made by the majority vote would be binding and unchangeable-except by law-for the branches of lower courts.”11

If the President violates his legal responsibilities, the Supreme Court has, as part of its duties, to put him on trial, and if his violations are proved, to suggest to the Supreme Leader to remove him from office. Among other duties of the Supreme Court are resolving the differences of judicial authorities in reviewing legal cases and being an advisor to the Judiciary head regarding any changes in the judges’ position or location of service.

Nevertheless, although the Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority, it is not an authority for any particular case and never issues any judgement for nonexecution of a case; rather, its duty lies in reviewing the appealed cases for proper execution of law and reverses them if the lower courts have violated the appropriate legal procedures or rejects the appeal and confirms the issued judgement.12

The third major entity of the judicial system within the Islamic Republic of Iran is the Justice Ministry, which is in fact the link between the executive and judicial branches on the one hand, and the channel that links these two branches to the legislative branch, on the other.

According to Article 160 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, the justice minister is selected by the president but from the list of individuals nominated for this position by the Head of the Judiciary and approved by the Parliament, just like any other Minister. The Justice Minister is accountable for his particular responsibilities to the President and the Parliament, but also to other ministers on related approved cabinet decisions. According to the first part of Article 160, the justice minister is responsible for every affair pertaining to relationship with the judiciary and executive branches. As to the executive branch, one of the duties of the justice minister is to present to the parliament any judicial bill that has been prepared by the judiciary head and approved by the cabinet. Additionally, the justice minister is responsible for defending the Judiciary’s budget in front of the cabinet during preparation of the annual budget, and in front of the parliament in the process of its approval.

The Head of the Judiciary can give the justice minister the full financial, administrative, and hiring authority of all employees other than judges, which would be the same responsibilities considered for other ministers as high officials. In this case, the justice minister would be acting as a deputy to the head of the Judiciary. Also, according to Article 159, “Justice Ministry is the official authority for hearing grievances and complaints. Formation of courts and determining their qualifications are subject to the rule of law”. On the other hand, in Paragraph 1 of Article 18, the formation of essential judicial entities is said to be among the responsibilities of the Head of the Judiciary. On that basis, courts, which are the most important element of the justice system, are under the auspices of the Head of the Judiciary and the minister of justice has no authority over them. Generally, therefore, the justice minister’s responsibilities are summed up as a conduit between judiciary and other branches without any authority to interfere in judicial affairs, which are the essence of the judiciary.

In the past few centuries, as administrative systems and entities were developed, a judicial system by the name of the Administrative Court of Justice or by other names had to be established to resolve the differences among employees and employers or between people and government organizations. So, too, in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution, according to Article 173, formation of a court by the name of the Administrative Court of Justice is proposed, under the supervision of the Head of the Judiciary to hear people’s complaints about government agents in an effort to protect their rights. On that basis, the Administrative Court of Justice can prevent government agents and managers from violating the citizens’ rights, and as a result acts like a court that hears complaints and issues judgements. According to Article 18 of the law of the administrative justice, the judgment of this court about the decisions and actions of government agents and government regulations are unchangeable; but when it comes to the decisions and actions of government entities, the court’s judgement could be revised. Article 28 of the law for review of administrative violations, approved on 16 March 1978, states:

“If defendants have any objections to the final decisions issued by the boards of administrative violation review, they have one month to take their complaints to the Administrative Court of Justice”. According to Article 21 of the law of the Administrative Court of Justice, government entities, be they ministries, organizations, or other, are obligated to carry out the court’s regulations, and in case of refusal the person committing the violation would be subject to removal from government and legal positions.13

Additionally, the Administrative Court of Justice can also revoke any of the regulations derived from government manuals and guidelines that are against Islamic laws or are out of the authority of the executive branch; anyone can request nullification of such regulations (Article 170 of the Islamic Republic Constitution). This duty of the court is different from its authority to review people’s grievances and complaints about the government, because in that case people seek arbitration for their rights, but here anyone, with or without standing before the court, could file a complaint; the court’ decision shall be general, case-based and impersonal. In that regard, Article 25 of the administrative justice law has determined a few breakdowns as follows:

“If the complaint is about conflict between government regulation and Islamic rules, the court must refer it to the Guardian Council; and if the Guardian Council confirms its conflict with the Islamic rules, the court must issue a judgment to nullify it; and if the complaint is about conflict between a government regulation and the laws that fall outside the authority of the executive branch, the court’s General Board must obtain a majority vote to cancel it. Since its inception, the Administrative Court of Justice has issued numerous judgments, the description of which is out of this discussion”.14

In addition to the Administrative Court of Justice, the judges of the justice ministry must also refuse to carry out those government regulations and mandates that are in conflict with Islamic laws and regulations. Article 170 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution states, “Court judges are obligated to refuse the implementation of any issued mandates or regulations that are contrary to Islamic laws or outside of the Judiciary’s scope of authority”. On 21 March 1950, Iran’s “Government Council Regulations”, which was adopted from the French Government’s Council’s Regulations,” was approved; however, it was never carried out due to unfavorable political situation at the time and refusal of the governments to follow it.15 Although prior to that, between 1925 and 1930, several laws for settlement of conflicts between government and people had passed, this was the very law that became the basis for establishment of the Administrative Court of Justice within the Islamic Republic’s Constitution.

General Inspection Organization is another judicial entity affiliated with the Judiciary, which has been established within every administrative and executive organization and entity in Iran to ensure the judicial branch’s oversight role, as well as the supervisory role over the proper execution of laws.

As the Supreme Court oversees the proper execution of laws in judicial courts, Iran’s General Inspection Organization oversees the proper execution of laws in non-judicial organizations and entities. Article 174 states,

“As it is the Judiciary’s right to oversee the proper execution of laws and current affairs within the government organizations, the General Inspection Organization is thus formed”.

To accomplish the responsibility, this office has two tasks, as follows:

“Ongoing inspection of all ministries, organizations, …whose entire or partial capital investment belongs to the government, or are under some kind of government supervision”, and “Conducting extra inspections based on request from the Judiciary, Article 90 Committee, related entities’ minister or manager, or even any other case that is deemed essential by the head of the office.”16

Thus, contrary to the Administrative Court of Justice, which only hears complaints about the proper execution of laws, the General Inspection Organization oversees the proper execution of laws with or without any complaints about the violations whatsoever.

Historically, the General Inspection Organization has its roots in the “Office of Inspection and Administrative Personnel” for employees of the then justice ministry in 1928, and the “State Inspection Board” in 1934. After these two entities, in 1953 the General Inspection Office was established under the auspices of the Justice Ministry and oversaw all government and military employees until the establishment of the Imperial Inspection Office in 1968. Since then, however, handling citizen complaints about government and military employees was given to the Imperial Inspection Office and the General Inspection Office was put in charge of monitoring the judicial and administrative affairs of justice ministry’s employees.17 Following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, both offices were dissolved and replaced by the General Inspection Organization, which has since been responsible for inspection of ministries and government organizations, as well as citizens’ complaints of government employees.

  • Introduction to the Organization of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mehdi Mir Hoseini, Center for Public Management Training, Tehran, 1993.
  • Comparative evaluation of military judicial courses in Iran, Seyed Khodayar Mortazavi, Quoted from
  • Legal modernity in Iran and Ali Akbar Davar, Ali Asghar Haghdar, Talash, Volume 4, Number 20, Germany, September, and October 2004.
  • Transformation of the Iranian Judicial System, two volumes, Mohammad Zarang, Islamic Revolutionary Documentation Center Publications, Tehran, 2002.
  • Constitutional Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, two volumes, Mohammad Hashemi, Shahid Beheshti University Press, Tehran, 1995.
  • Proceedings of the National Assembly, Sixth Legislative Period, Negotiations 27 February 1927, p.501.
  • Political Jurisprudence, Amid Zanjani, Amirkabir Publications, Tehran, 2005.
  • Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • Constitution of the Imperial Country of Iran.
  • Introduction to Law and Study in the Iranian Legal System, Naser Katuzian, Enteshar Co., Tehran, 1998.

  1. All documents of the Iranian government before 1304 (1925) are dated to Lunar Hijri, the official calendar. ↩︎

  2. Proceedings of the National Assembly, the sixth legislative term, negotiations 17 February 1927, Page 501 ↩︎

  3. Information No. 147, 9 February 1927 ↩︎

  4. Legal modernity in Iran and Ali Akbar Davar, Ali Asghar Haghdar, Talash, Volume 4, Number 20, Germany, September, and October 2004. ↩︎

  5. See: ↩︎

  6. (See: Transformation of the Iranian Judiciary, Mohammad Zerang, Islamic Revolutionary Documentation Center Publications, Tehran, 2002) ↩︎

  7. ↩︎

  8. Comparative evaluation of the courses of the judicial system in Iran, Seyed Khodayar Mortazavi ↩︎

  9. Familiarity with the organization of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mehdi Mir Hoseini, p.18. ↩︎

  10. Constitutional Rights of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Hashemi, vol. 2, p. 501. ↩︎

  11. Introduction to Law and Study in the Iranian Legal System, Nasser Katozian, p. 152. ↩︎

  12. Ibid., P. 154. ↩︎

  13. Political Jurisprudence, Amid Zanjani, vol. 1, p. 365. ↩︎

  14. Ibid., P. 368. ↩︎

  15. Constitutional Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Hashemi, vol. 2, p. 524. ↩︎

  16. Political jurisprudence, Amid Zanjani, vol. 1, p. 373. ↩︎

  17. Constitutional Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Hashemi, Vol. 2, p. 574. ↩︎

Related Content