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On refusing to consider a petition

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 DECISION

ON THE PETITION OF THE VILNIUS REGIONAL COURT, THE PETITIONER, REQUESTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO WHETHER ITEMS 9 AND 10 (WORDING OF 30 MAY 1995) OF ARTICLE 12 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW “ON THE PROCEDURE AND CONDITIONS OF THE RESTORATION OF THE RIGHTS OF OWNERSHIP OF CITIZENS TO THE EXISTING REAL PROPERTY” AND ITEM 12.4 (WORDING 18 DECEMBER 1995) OF THE PROCEDURE FOR IMPLEMENTING THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW “ON THE PROCEDURE AND CONDITIONS OF THE RESTORATION OF THE RIGHTS OF OWNERSHIP OF CITIZENS TO THE EXISTING REAL PROPERTY” AS APPROVED BY THE RESOLUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA (NO. 470) “ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ‘ON THE PROCEDURE AND CONDITIONS OF THE RESTORATION OF THE RIGHTS OF OWNERSHIP OF CITIZENS TO THE EXISTING REAL PROPERTY’” OF 15 NOVEMBER 1991 ARE NOT IN CONFLICT WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 17 June 2014, No. KT32-S23/2014
Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Vytas Milius, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Dainius Žalimas

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in its procedural sitting, considered the petition (No. 1B-38/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Court, the petitioner.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

The petition (No. 1B-38/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Court, the petitioner, was received at the Constitutional Court. The petition requests an investigation into whether “Items 9 and 10 of Article 12 of the 18-06-1991 Republic of Lithuania Law (No. I-1454) ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’ (the wording in force as from 26-04-1996) and Item 12.4 of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 470) ‘On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property”’ of 15 November 1991 (the wording in force as from 02-03-1996), to the extent that these provisions create the preconditions for a user of land after they end their activity on the land plot (after they, of their own free will, have refused to continue leasing the land plot or by mutual consent have terminated a lease contract) to demand the land owner the compensation for shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects, and to the extent that they contain no mention of the transition of shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects to the ownership of the owner of the restored land, are not in conflict with Articles 23, 29, and Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, which includes the principles of justice, proportionality, and legitimate expectations”.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

  1. On 18 June 1991, the Supreme Council adopted the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” (hereinafter also referred to as the Law), which was amended and/or supplemented on more than one occasion.

On 30 May 1995, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending and Supplementing the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” which came into force on 16 June 1995. By means of Item 8 of the said law, the Seimas amended Items 9 and 10 (wording of 18 June 1991 with subsequent amendments and supplements) of Article 12 of the Law. The petition of the petitioner makes it clear that it impugns the compliance of Items 9 and 10 of Article 12 (wording of 30 May 1995) of the Law with the Constitution.

  1. On 15 November 1991, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Resolution (No. 470) “On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” (hereinafter also referred to as government resolution No. 470 of 15 November 1991), by Item 1 whereof it approved the Procedure for the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” (hereinafter also referred to as the Procedure). Government resolution No. 470 of 15 November 1991 and the Procedure approved by it were amended on more than one occasion.

On 18 December 1995, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1576) “On Amending and Supplementing Certain Resolutions of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania” that came into force on 23 December 1995. By means of Item 1.4 of this resolution, the Procedure (wording of 15 November 1991 with subsequent amendments) was set forth in its new wording.

Although the petitioner impugns the compliance of Item 12.4 of government resolution No. 470 of 15 November 1991 with the Constitution, the petition makes it clear that the petitioner impugns the compliance of Item 12.4 (wording of m. 18 December 1995) of the Procedure approved by government resolution No. 470 of 15 November 1991 with the Constitution.

  1. It should be noted that the petitioner has applied to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of the legal acts regulating the restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property with the Constitution in the course of the consideration of a civil case (by its ruling the petitioner suspended its consideration) wherein an issue of the establishment of and compensation for the value of the apple-tree planting stock of a commercial garden is considered. The case considered by the petitioner makes it clear that the dispute in that case began between the claimant—an agricultural company to which the commercial gardens belong by right of ownership, and the respondent, to whom the land plot (within a part of which the said commercial gardens are situated) was given as a gift, after another person had restored their rights to this land plot under procedure established by the Law.
  2. According to the petitioner, according to Items 9 and 10 of Article 12 of the Law, after an aspirant has restored their rights of ownership and, after agricultural enterprises have discontinued of their own free will their activity in the leased land plot, it becomes unclear whether the owner of the recovered land has the right to freely possess, use, and dispose of that land plot; in addition, the situation regarding the fate of the planting stock on the land plot in question becomes uncertain, i.e. it is not clear whether the land owner has the right to freely manage the planting stock on their land plot, whether the former possessor of the gardens should by paid any compensation, etc. In addition, situations may emerge where the size of the compensation claimed by a company for the planting stock could become much bigger than the value of the land plot itself, whilst this would mean that, in the process of the restoration of the rights of ownership, the aspirant has acquired not property, but, rather, property obligations. In the opinion of the petitioner, upon the failure of the impugned legal regulation to establish that after an enterprise discontinues its activity (after it, of its own free will, has refused to continue leasing the land plot or by mutual consent has terminated a lease contract), the gardens become the ownership of the owner of the recovered land, the enterprise could claim compensation from the land owner for the planting stock that no longer give any economic profit, or, in the uncertainty about the status of the planting stock, the enterprise may challenge the right of the land plot owner to freely possess, use, and dispose of that land plot.
  3. These statements of the petitioner substantiating the petition requesting an investigation into the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution show that the petitioner which foresees, among other things, hypothetical situations regarding the application of the impugned legal regulation, has faced uncertainties about the construction and application of the impugned legal regulation.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that, under the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court, it does not decide the questions concerning the application of legal acts, also that such questions are decided by the institution that has the powers to apply legal acts; if laws contain obscurities, ambiguities, and gaps, it is the duty of the legislature to eliminate them (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 23 September 2002, 20 November 2006, 6 September 2007, 12 September 2007, 16 November 2010, and 5 September 2011, its ruling of 18 April 2012, and its decisions of 11 May 2012 and 13 March 2014). The issues of the application of law that have not been decided by the legislature are a matter of judicial practice (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 9 July 1998, its decisions of 20 November 2006, 6 September 2007, and 12 September 2007, its ruling of 18 April 2012, and its decisions of 11 May 2012 and 13 March 2014); thus, these issues may be decided by the courts which consider disputes regarding the application of respective legal acts (parts thereof) (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 20 November 2006, 6 September 2006, 12 September 2007, and 13 March 2014). Petitions requesting the construction as to how the provisions of a law (or another legal act) must applied do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 23 September 2002, 20 November 2006, 2 July 2010, 16 November 2010, 5 September 2011, and 13 March 2014).

  1. In this context, it should be noted that the issues of application of law, which are relevant to the petitioner, have been decided in the 10 January 2014 ruling of the Supreme Court of Lithuania (civil case No. 3K-3-136/2014) that is specified in the petitioner’s petition (No. 1B-38/2014). In the said ruling, the Supreme Court of Lithuania held that the court of appeal instance in its “decision in part” recognised in a legally reasoned manner the right of the claimant to compensation for the planting stock on the respondent’s land plot and also reasonably referred the issue of the establishment of the size of compensation to the court of first instance. In the same ruling, the Supreme Court of Lithuania also held that the laws governing the restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property do not regulate the relations of taking over private property and its transfer in kind for no consideration for persons restoring their rights of ownership to real property. Nor do such laws regulate the relations connected with further possession, use, and disposal of the property to which the rights of ownership have been restored. General norms of private law must be applied to such relations. In its 3 January 2014 ruling (civil case No. 3K-3-74/2014), the Supreme Court of Lithuania held that, conforming to Article 6.559 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, in cases where the land ownership is passed to another owner subsequent to a gift agreement, the land lease contract shall be valid in respect to the new owner of the land providing that the contract was registered in the Public Register in accordance with the procedure established by law; due to this fact, the new owner (the respondent in the civil case) was subject to the rights and obligations of the former owner (lessee) of the land plot, whilst after she had concluded new land lease contracts according to general norms of civil law, the norms of Book Six of the Civil Code became applicable to the relations of the dispute, since the legal relations between the parties of the dispute regulated by the norms of material law became classical legal relations of obligations (lease) regulated by means of norms of private law.

In addition, the Supreme Court of Lithuania noted that, according to the legal regulation established in the Civil Code, the end of a land plot lease contract is not the legal grounds for the acquisition of the ownership right to the planting stock, which is on the land in question but also belongs to another person. Consequently, the social relations relevant to the petitioner are regulated by the Civil Code (but in a manner different form that specified by the petitioner).

Thus, it should be held that, in its petition, the petitioner raises not only the issues of application of law, which are never decided by the Constitutional Court, but also does not have any grounds for applying the impugned legal regulation in the course of deciding the size of compensation for the planting stock.

Under the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court, no court has locus standi to apply to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting an investigation into whether a law (part thereof) or another legal act (part thereof) that should not (could not) be applied in the case considered by the court is not in conflict with the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 22 May 2007, 27 June 2007, and 5 July 2007, its ruling of 24 October 2007, its decision of 29 October 2009, its rulings of 29 November 2010, 2 September 2011 and 5 July 2013).

  1. Under the Law on the Constitutional Court, by its decision, the Constitutional Court refuses to consider petitions requesting an investigation into the compliance of a legal act with the Constitution if the petition was filed by an institution or person who does not have the right to apply to the Constitutional Court (Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 69), and if the consideration of the petition does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court (Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 69).
  2. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that there exist the grounds to refuse to consider the petition (No. 1B-38/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Items 9 and 10 (wording of 30 May 1995) of Article 12 of the Law and Item 12.4 (wording of 18 December 1995) of the Procedure as approved by government resolution No. 470 of 15 November 1991, to the extent that these provisions, according to the petitioner, create the preconditions for a user of land after they end their activity on the land plot (after they, of their own free will, have refused to continue leasing the land plot or by mutual consent have terminated a lease contract) to demand the land owner the compensation for shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects, and to the extent they the transition of shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects to the ownership of the owner of the restored land is not established, are not in conflict with Articles 23, 29, and Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

Conforming to Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 22, Article 28, and Items 1 and 2 of Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 2 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

 decision:

To refuse to consider the petition (No. 1B-38/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Items 9 and 10 (wording of 30 May 1995) of Article 12 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” and Item 12.4 (wording of 18 December 1995) of the Procedure for the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” as approved by the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 470) “On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 November 1991, to the extent that these provisions, according to the petitioner, create the preconditions for a user of land after they end their activity on the land plot (after they, of their own free will, have refused to continue leasing the land plot or by mutual consent have terminated a lease contract) to demand the land owner the compensation for shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects, and to the extent that the transition of shrubbery, berry-fields, and other objects to the ownership of the owner of the restored land is not established, are not in conflict with Articles 23, 29, and Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

 

This decision of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                                    Elvyra Baltutytė
                                                                                                         Vytautas Greičius
                                                                                                         Pranas Kuconis
                                                                                                         Gediminas Mesonis
                                                                                                         Vytas Milius
                                                                                                         Egidijus Šileikis
                                                                                                         Algirdas Taminskas
                                                                                                         Dainius Žalimas