Lt

On the restoration of the ownership rights of religious associations

Case No. 15/2009

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 1 OF ARTICLE 5 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA LAW ON THE PROCEDURE FOR RESTORATION OF THE RIGHTS OF RELIGIOUS ASSOCIATIONS TO THE EXISTING REAL PROPERTY WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 19 June 2012

Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court Egidijus Bieliūnas, Toma Birmontienė, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Ramutė Ruškytė, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis, and Dainius Žalimas,

with the secretary—Daiva Pitrėnaitė,

pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1 and 531 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 11 June 2012, in the Court hearing heard, under written procedure, constitutional justice case No. 15/2009 subsequent to the petition of the Kaunas Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting to investigate whether Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property with Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

  1. The Kaunas Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, was investigating an administrative case. In the said case, as it is maintained in the petition of the petitioner, the Lithuanian St. Casimir Province of the Order of Friars Minor, having had re-established itself later than the expiry of the term for filing applications of religious associations requesting to restore the right to the existing real property and its returning, which was established in the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property (hereinafter also referred to as the Law), requested inter alia to renew the term for filing the application to restore the rights of ownership to certain real property in the town of Kaunas and to apply to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law with the Constitution. This legal norm, purportedly, has anti-constitutionally reduced the possibilities of religious associations to restore the rights of ownership to the existing real property provided the application is filed later than one year after the entry into force of the Law, especially when one bears in mind the fact that the Republic of Lithuania Law on Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property, an act of public law of a similar purpose, provides for a possibility of citizens, who missed the time limits set in the law for the reasons which are recognised as important by the court, to renew this term under judicial procedure.
  2. The petition of the Kaunas Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, is substantiated by the following arguments.

The legal regulation established in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law has reduced the rights of religious associations to restore the rights of ownership to the existing real property, has denied the legitimate expectations of a part of members of society to receive a fair compensation for the expropriated real property, since a religious association, if it does not file an application to restore the rights of ownership within one year after the entry into force of this law, loses its right to restoration of the rights of ownership.

The petitioner refers to the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine whereby the state has a duty to act so that the rights of ownership would be restored to the owners; the owners have a legitimate expectation that their rights of ownership to the existing residential houses, parts thereof, flats will be restored; their such a legitimate expectation is protected and defended by the Constitution.

II

  1. By Ordinance of the Speaker of the Seimas No. PP-40 of 13 May 2009, Mantas Varaška, a Member of the Seimas, was appointed to represent the Seimas, the party concerned.
  2. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court hearing written explanations were received from M. Varaška, wherein it is maintained that Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law is not in conflict with the Constitution. The position of the representative of the party concerned is substantiated by the following arguments.

The Seimas, while striving to restore justice in part at least, i.e. to restore the violated rights of ownership of religious associations, chose restricted restitution, but not restitutio in integrum. The process of restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations, which began on 14 February 1990 upon adoption of the Law “On the Return of Houses of Prayer and Other Buildings to Religious Communities”, continues within the framework of the now valid Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property and is not over yet.

Under the Constitution, the Seimas, while establishing the conditions and procedure for restoration of the rights of ownership, must take account of changes in social, economic and other conditions, must co-ordinate the rights and interests of the persons, who seek to restore the rights of ownership, with the needs of society. While restoring the rights of some persons, one must not violate the rights of other persons, it is impossible to attain justice by recognising the interests of only one group or only one person and, at the same time, denying the interests of others. The Seimas, while regulating the conditions and procedure for restoration of the rights of ownership enjoyed discretion to establish the terms of the implementation of the right to restoration of the rights of ownership. These terms created preconditions for the state to provide for the extent of the property to be returned to religious communities, to prepare for the process of restoration of the rights of ownership, to secure the stability of legal relations, the legitimate expectations and legal certainty of the subjects participating in the real estate circulation, to achieve a balance between the interests of religious associations, to which the rights of ownership are being restored, and those of entire society. The State of Lithuania has undertaken an obligation to restore the rights of ownership of not all religious associations to the existing real property, but only the said rights of those religious associations that fall within the definition of the subjects presented in Article 2 of the Law and which filed an application to restore the rights of ownership within the time period established in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law. If the terms were vague, it would be impossible to finish the process of the restoration of the rights of ownership, since, in case every time a new subject appears which missed for various reasons the term established in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law, one would interfere with the existing relations, the legitimate expectations, legal certainty and legal security of the subjects participating in the circulation of real property would not be secured, i.e. the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law might be violated.

The representative of the party concerned also notes that the differences between the conditions and procedure for restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations and natural persons, as categories of persons, are grounded upon objective differences of the situation of these subjects and cannot be assessed as being in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution. The conditions and procedure for restoration of the rights of ownership of these persons are regulated by different laws and may not be identified.

  1. On 30 May 2012, the Constitutional Court received Ordinance of the Speaker of the Seimas No. PP-251 of 25 May 2012, whereby the Members of the Seimas Vaidotas Bacevičius and Rima Baškienė were empowered to represent the Seimas, the party concerned in the constitutional justice case at issue. This ordinance recognised Ordinance of the Speaker of the Seimas No. PP-40 of 13 May 2009, whereby M. Varaška, a Member of the Seimas, was empowered to represent the Seimas, the party concerned, as no longer valid.
  2. After the case had been prepared and assigned for consideration at a hearing of the Constitutional Court, written explanations were received from V. Bacevičius and R. Baškienė, in which they did not present their position on the compliance of the disputed legal regulation with the Constitution. The explanations pointed out the peculiarities of work of inter alia state archives, as well as peculiarities of formation of the subjects that enjoy the status of a religious association provided for in the canon law of the Catholic Church. In the opinion of the representatives, in some cases the said peculiarities could determine the fact that there was no fault of the religious association (the Lithuanian St. Casimir Province of the Order of Friars Minor) that it did not use the right to file an application, within the term established in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law, requesting to restore the right of ownership to the existing real property and to return it in kind.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

  1. As mentioned, the Kaunas Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests investigation into whether Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property is not in conflict with Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. On 21 March 1995, the Seimas adopted the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property, which came into force on 29 March 1995.

2.1. This law regulates the procedure and conditions for the restoration of the right of religious associations to the existing real property which was nationalised under the laws of the former LSSR (USSR) or in any other manner expropriated by the State (Paragraph 1 of Article 1).

2.2. Article 5 “Procedure for Filing of Applications to Return the Existing Real Property” of the Law, Paragraph 1 whereof is impugned in the constitutional justice case at issue, prescribes:

“Religious associations shall file applications concerning the restoration of the rights to the existing real property and the return thereof with the manager of that property, based on the location of the property, within one year from the date of coming into effect of this Law.

Documents confirming the right of ownership must be produced within one year from the day of filing of the application to restore the rights to the existing real property.”

2.3. Article 5 of the Law has not seen any subsequent amendments and/or supplements.

2.4. In this context one is to note also other provisions of the Law (with subsequent amendments and/or supplements):

– “An application to reclaim the existing real property or for the payment of compensation for it shall include the name of the religious association, the address of its registered office, the objects of immovable property, their location, the grounds for the ownership right to this property, the reasons and date of the loss of ownership, and the current user of the property” (Paragraph 1 of Article 6); “The application shall specify whether the applicant requests the property to be returned in kind, equivalent in kind or to receive compensation for the property. Documents confirming the right of ownership must be attached to the application” (Paragraph 2 of Article 6);

– “Applications filed prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law must be supplemented in accordance with the provisions of this Law” (Paragraph 3 of Article 6);

– “As of the date of coming into effect of this Law, decisions concerning the return of houses of prayer and other buildings or the payment of cash compensations to religious communities pursuant to the Republic of Lithuania Law ‘On the Return of Houses of Prayer and Other Buildings to Religious Communities’ of 14 February 1990 shall no longer be accepted, and applications concerning the return of property or its buy-out shall be considered in accordance with the procedure established by this Law” (Paragraph 3 of Article 15);

– “In exceptional cases, the right of ownership to the existing real property specified in Article 4 of this Law may be restored by returning the property in kind by agreement of the Government and the religious association, which is approved by the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania” (Paragraph 1 of Article 15); “An application of the religious association concerning the return of such real property in kind must be filed prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law, except for the cases where the circumstances specified in Article 4 of this Law cease to exist” (Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 July 2002) of Article 15);

– “At the request of a religious association, the existing real property shall be returned to it in kind, with the exception of the following property: 1) residential houses and flats if they are occupied by tenants; 2) buildings and other structures which have been reconstructed or rebuilt in a way that their total floor area has increased by more than 1/3 and it is impossible to separate the newly created floor area from the initial floor area, or where over 50 per cent of their main constructions have been altered; 3) buildings and structures which have been transferred to scientific, healthcare, cultural, educational establishments and communications agencies; 4) buildings or parts thereof which have been transferred into private ownership under the laws in effect at the moment of conveyance” (Paragraph 1 of Article 4).

  1. Thus, inter alia the concrete (fixed) one-year term for filing applications of religious associations concerning restoration of the right of ownership to the existing real property and on returning the property is established in the impugned Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law, i.e. a possibility of religious associations to file the said applications is related with the length of one year counted from the day of the entry into force of the Law.

3.1. It needs to be noted that neither Article 5 of the Law, nor other articles thereof provide expressis verbis that in accordance with a certain procedure the missed one-year term of filing applications concerning restoration of the right of ownership to the existing real property and concerning returning of the property may be renewed with regard to religious associations.

3.2. It also needs to be noted that neither Article 5 of the Law, nor other articles thereof provide expressis verbis that in accordance with a certain procedure the missed one-year term from filing an application to restore the right of ownership, within which one must produce documents confirming the right of ownership to the existing real property, may be renewed.

3.3. It also needs to be noted that neither Article 5 of the Law, nor other articles thereof provide expressis verbis that the religious associations that missed the term (established in the Law) to file the applications, lose the right to restoration of the right of ownership under the Law. The overall legal regulation entrenched in the quoted provisions of the Law, inter alia Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 July 2002) and Paragraph 3 of Article 15 thereof, implies that:

– the legal regulation entrenched in the impugned Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law, whereby the term of filing applications, which meet the content requirements entrenched in Article 6 of the Law, to restore the right of ownership, is not absolute in all situations (provided for in the Law) of restoration of the right of ownership to religious associations, inter alia the situations related to returning the existing real property in kind in exceptional cases where “the circumstances specified in Article 4 of this Law cease to exist” (Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 July 2002) of Article 15); it is clear from the explanatory note to the Republic of Lithuania Law on Supplementing Articles 11 and 15 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property, which was adopted by the Seimas on 4 July 2002, that by means of these amendments it was attempted to provide that, while taking account of numerous applications of religious associations to restore the existing real property in kind one sought to provide that if the circumstances, due to which the existing real property had been ascribed to the property subject to buy-out by the state, ceased to exist, “the term of filing the application is not applied”;

– religious associations were allowed to file applications to return houses of prayer and other buildings even prior to the entry into force of the impugned (to the specified extent) law, i.e. they could do so under the Law “On the Return of Houses of Prayer and Other Buildings to Religious Communities” of 14 February 1990 and supplement these applications in accordance with the provisions of the impugned law.

  1. While assessing whether Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property is not in conflict with Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, it needs to be noted that, under the official constitutional doctrine:

– until respective state institutions have not adopted a decision on the restoration of the rights of ownership, in reality, the persons to whom the rights of ownership are restored do not enjoy the subjective rights to the property which earlier belonged to them; after the rights of ownership have been restored, the norms of Article 23 of the Constitution are applied to the full extent for the protection of these rights; after an authorised state institution has adopted a decision to restore the rights of ownership to a person, this person acquires the rights of ownership which are protected and defended under Article 23 of the Constitution (Constitutional Court rulings of 4 March 2003, 23 August 2005 and 22 December 2010);

– the principle of equality of all persons does not deny a possibility to provide in a law for a different legal regulation in respect to certain categories of persons who are in different situations; special requirements or certain conditions are not attributed to discriminative restrictions as well, if their establishment is related to peculiarities of regulated relations (Constitutional Court rulings of 4 July 2003, 17 November 2003 and 3 December 2003).

4.1. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it needs to be noted that, under the Constitution, the Constitutional Court does not decide the issues of compatibility and rivalry of legal acts of the same power (Constitutional Court decisions of 29 September 1999, 13 November 2006, 27 June 2007, 6 September 2007, 12 September 2007, 16 November 2010 and 25 April 2012). The Constitutional Court has also held that the fact that, under the Constitution, it does not decide the issues of compatibility and rivalry of legal acts of the same power, does not at all mean that in certain cases incompatibility of legal acts (parts thereof) cannot imply the conflict of such legal acts (or some of them) with the Constitution, nor does it mean that the Constitutional Court cannot state the existence of such a conflict with the Constitution under certain circumstances; in such cases one must assess the entirety of the arguments of the petition of the petitioner (Constitutional Court decisions of 13 November 2006, 27 June 2007, 6 September 2007 and 12 September 2007).

4.2. It also needs to be noted that in the acts of the Constitutional Court (inter alia rulings of 4 March 2003, 23 August 2005, 5 July 2007, 20 May 2008, 9 March 2010 and 22 December 2010) a broad official constitutional doctrine of restoration of the rights of citizens to the existing real property was formed, which is grounded inter alia upon the following provisions:

– the State of Lithuania, while striving to restore justice in part at least, i.e. to restore the violated rights of ownership, chose restricted restitution, but not restitutio in integrum; such choice was determined, among other factors, by the extent of the restoration of the rights of ownership and the limited material and financial capabilities of the state; while regulating, by means of laws, the restoration of the denied rights of ownership, it was necessary to take account of the fact that, during the years of occupation, other property, social and economic relations of people came into being, that there appeared other objective circumstances due to which it was impossible to completely restore the rights of ownership (to go back to status quo ante);

– while regulating the restoration of the denied rights of ownership, the legislator enjoys the discretion to establish the conditions and procedure for the restoration of the rights of ownership;

– the legislator, while regulating the restoration of the rights of ownership, enjoys discretion to establish inter alia the time limits for filing applications to restore the rights of ownership; while doing so, the legislator must take account of the fact that unreasonably long time limits of restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property, especially groundless prolongation thereof (inter alia multiple lengthening thereof), may distort the institute of restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property (Constitutional Court ruling of 22 December 2010);

– the fact that the state resolved that the denied rights of ownership have to be restored, also the fact that a law regulating restitution relations was adopted and that implementation of restoration of ownership rights was begun with respect to the persons that have the right to restore the rights of ownership created the legitimate expectation to implement their such right by the ways, under conditions and procedure and within the terms established in the law; the said legitimate expectation is protected and defended by the Constitution; alongside, a duty appeared to the state to regulate the restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property in a way so that the said legitimate expectation would be implemented in reality;

– the constitutional imperatives of a harmonious, just and open civil society, the constitutional requirements of legal certainty, legal security and protection of legitimate expectations imply that the begun process of restitution may not be extended for an unreasonably long time; thus, the amendments of corresponding relations of the legal regulation cannot be such so that they would create preconditions to procrastinate this process for an unreasonably long period; due to the unreasonably long time during which the rights of ownership to the existing real property are restored, the essence of the restitution institute itself can be distorted or even denied, the constitutional rights of ownership as well as other rights of the person can be violated and the trust of the people in the state and law can be undermined (Constitutional Court rulings of 5 July 2007 and 22 December 2010).

  1. While deciding whether Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property is not in conflict with Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, it needs to be noted that the official constitutional doctrine of restoration of the rights of ownership of citizens to the existing real property, inter alia the requirements disclosed therein for the terms within which applications citizens to restore the rights of ownership must be filed, is to be applied mutatis mutandis to the legal regulation on restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations to the existing real property, inter alia to the establishment of the terms within which applications of religious associations to restore the rights of ownership must be filed.

Thus, the legislator, while regulating the restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations to the existing real property, enjoys discretion to establish inter alia constitutionally sufficient (reasonable) terms of applications of religious communities to restore the rights of ownership; while doing so, the legislator must take account of the fact that unreasonably long time limits of restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations to the existing real property may distort the institute of restoration of the rights of ownership to the existing real property.

  1. It needs to be noted that the legislator:

– established the regulation (impugned to the specified extent) related with the term of filing applications by religious associations requesting to restore the right of ownership in 1995, i.e. after five years had elapsed from the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania;

– related the regulation (impugned to the specified extent) related with the term of filing applications by religious associations requesting to restore the right of ownership with a one-year term “after the entry into force of this law” within which the said application can be filed (Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law) and with a one-year term “from the day of filing of the application to restore the rights to the existing real property” within which documents confirming the right of ownership must be produced (Paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Law);

– related the regulation (impugned to the specified extent) related with the term of filing applications by religious associations requesting to restore the right of ownership also with those applications of religious associations on returning houses of prayer and other buildings, which could be filed prior to entry into force of the impugned (to the specified extent) law (i.e. under the Law “On the Return of Houses of Prayer and Other Buildings to Religious Communities” of 14 February 1990) in the aspect that such applications filed previously could be supplemented in accordance with the provisions of the impugned law (Paragraph 3 of Article 6), whereas an application concerning returning certain real property in kind may be filed “where the circumstances specified in Article 4 of this Law cease to exist” (Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 July 2002) of Article 15).

  1. It also needs to be noted that the petitioner does not dispute the said terms with regard to their sufficiency and reasonableness, i.e. it has not presented any arguments that the a one-year term “after the entry into force of this law” within which an application to restore the right of ownership can be filed (this term is established in Article 5 of Law) and a one-year term “from the day of filing of the application to restore the rights to the existing real property” within which documents confirming the right of ownership must be produced, are constitutionally insufficient (unreasonable).
  2. It needs to be noted that it is clear from the petition of the Kaunas Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, that the Lithuanian St. Casimir Province of the Order of Friars Minor requested that the court should apply to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law with the Constitution, since it believed that this legal norm is anti-constitutional also in the aspect that the Law on Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property, an act of public law of a purpose similar to the Law, provides for a possibility of citizens, who missed the time limits set in the law for the reasons which are recognised as important by the court, to renew this term under judicial procedure.

In this context it needs to be mentioned that the implementation of the restoration of citizens’ rights of ownership to the existing real property began on 1 August 1991 after the 8 June 1991 Republic of Lithuania Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” had come into force, however, the legislator, while regulating the restoration of citizens’ rights of ownership, entrenched the institute of renewal of the term of filing applications to restore the rights of ownership only on 12 October 2004, when by Article 1 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on Amending Article 10 of the Law on Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (it came into force on 26 October 2004) it amended Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law on Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property and set it forth as follows: “The rights of ownership shall be restored to the citizens whose applications for the restoration of rights of ownership to real property have been filed within the time limits set by the Republic of Lithuania Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’, as well as filed in compliance with the procedure established by this Law prior to 31 December 2001. Citizens who missed the set time limits for the reasons which are recognised as important by the court, the missed time limits may be renewed.”

8.1. It needs to be noted that, as it has been mentioned, under the Constitution, the Constitutional Court does not decide the issues of compatibility and rivalry of legal acts of the same power.

8.2. It needs to be emphasised that, under the Constitution, the legislator, while regulating the relations of restoration of the rights of ownership, may establish a sufficient (reasonable) term of filing applications of persons requesting to restore the rights of ownership and, if such a term is established, the legislator does not have to establish a legal regulation, whereby courts would be enabled to renew this term with respect to the persons who missed it for certain reasons. In itself, the mere fact that the legislator, while regulating the restoration of the rights of ownership of citizens and implementing its discretion, establishes a possibility for courts to renew the term of filing an application to restore the right of ownership with respect to those citizens who, due to certain reasons, missed it, does not mean that, under the Constitution, the legislator must entrench an identical legal regulation also in the law restoring the right of ownership of religious associations—legal persons, which differ from citizens in essence according to the possibilities to implement their rights. Neither from the Constitution, inter alia Articles 23, 29 thereof, nor from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law arises a duty of the legislator to establish expressis verbis such legal regulation of restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations (inter alia the term of filing applications to restore the rights of ownership of religious associations) which would be compatible with the established legal regulation on restoration of the rights of ownership of citizens, inter alia the term of applications of citizens requesting to restore the rights of ownership (and the possibility to renew such a term).

8.3. Thus, there is no ground to assert that the legislator, by means of the impugned (to the specified extent) legal regulation on restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations, which was established in 1995, i.e. after five years had elapsed from the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania, while entrenching a one-year term of filing applications of religious associations requesting to restore the rights of ownership, was (or is at present) purportedly obliged, under the Constitution, to entrench expressis verbis the legal regulation on renewal of the missed one-year term, let alone such legal regulation which has been entrenched in the Law on Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property since 12 October 2004, not to mention the fact that, as mentioned before:

– neither Article 5 of the Law, nor other articles thereof provide expressis verbis that the religious associations that missed the term (established in the Law) to file the applications, lose the right to restoration of the right of ownership under the Law;

– in exceptional cases, an application concerning the return of real property in kind may be filed (satisfied) “where the circumstances specified in Article 4 of this Law cease to exist” (Paragraph 2 (wording of 4 July 2002) of Article 15).

8.4. Consequently, under the Constitution, the legislator, while regulating the relations of restoration of the rights of ownership, enjoys discretion to regulate expressis verbis the restoration of the rights of ownership of religious associations, inter alia the term of applications of religious associations requesting to restore the rights of ownership (and the possibility to renew such a term), in a different manner if compared with the regulation of the restoration of the rights of ownership of citizens, inter alia the renewal of the term of filing applications to restore the rights of ownership.

  1. It needs to be held that Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property has entrenched a sufficient (reasonable) term of filing applications of religious associations requesting to restore the right of ownership. The legal regulation established therein has created the preconditions to ensure that the terms of restoration of the right of ownership of religious associations would not distort the institute of restoration of the rights of ownership to the exiting real property itself and this legal regulation does not deny the constitutional principles of equality of persons and a state under the rule of law as well as the guarantees of protection of inviolability of property and the rights of ownership.
  2. Taking account of the arguments set forth, one is to draw a conclusion that Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property is not in conflict with Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

Conforming to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 531, 54, 55 and 56 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania has passed the following

ruling:

To recognise that Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Procedure for Restoration of the Rights of Religious Associations to the Existing Real Property (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1995, No. 27-600) is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

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

The ruling is promulgated in the name of the Republic of Lithuania.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                         Egidijus Bieliūnas

                                                                                             Toma Birmontienė

                                                                                             Pranas Kuconis

                                                                                             Gediminas Mesonis

                                                                                             Ramutė Ruškytė

                                                                                             Egidijus Šileikis

                                                                                             Algirdas Taminskas

                                                                                             Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis

                                                                                             Dainius Žalimas