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Bill Moving Court to St. Pete Stalls

The Federation Council rejected a bill Wednesday that would have moved the Constitutional Court to St. Petersburg from Moscow but left the door open for a revised draft permitting for occasional sessions in the capital, as the judges would like.

Out of 177 council members, or senators, 103 voted against. The main objection was that the measure barred the court from holding sessions anywhere besides its official location.

That provision "infringes upon the Constitutional Court's rights and contradicts the principle of independence," according to a memo distributed among senators by the council's Constitutional Law Committee, Interfax reported.

The council vote followed the Constitutional Court having unsuccessfully lobbied the State Duma to amend the bill to allow the court to maintain a branch office in Moscow and periodically meet in Moscow or other locations.

While Duma deputies had agreed to permit the court to meet in Moscow, they ultimately changed their mind, passing a bill earlier this month that restricted the court to St. Petersburg.

Constitutional Court chairman Valery Zorkin was then dispatched to lobby senators Tuesday to reject the bill, Kommersant reported Wednesday. Zorkin has also secured President Vladimir Putin's support for a revised draft, with the understanding the court would not meet too often in Moscow.

The Federation Council also set up a commission with the Duma to hammer out an amended version of the measure. If lawmakers act soon, the court could move to St. Petersburg in 2007 or 2008.

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