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On dismissing the instituted legal proceedings

Case No. 6/97

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF

THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

D E C I S I O N

 

On the petition of a group of Seimas members requesting an investigation into whether the Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity 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” is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania

 

Vilnius, 13 November 1997

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the justices of the Constitutional Court: Egidijus Jarašiūnas, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zigmas Levickis, Augustinas Normantas, Vladas Pavilonis, Jonas Prapiestis, Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius, Teodora Staugaitienė, and Juozas Žilys

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in its organisational sitting, has discussed the petition of a group of Seimas members, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether the Republic of Lithuania Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” was in compliance with Articles 23, 106, 109, 114, and 145 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

A group of Seimas members, the petitioner, have applied to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting an investigation into whether the 16 January 1997 Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity of 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” (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1997, No. 6-89) was in compliance with the Constitution.

The petitioner grounds their request on the following arguments.

1. By the Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity of 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” the validity of the prior in force law is suspended. Instances when the validity of a law is suspended are rare. This may be linked with some special occurrence and must be legally grounded. For example, Article 145 of the Constitution provides that during martial law or a state of emergency certain human rights and freedoms, as those of the inviolability of the private life of a human being and their dwelling place, that of free expression of their own convictions, that of moving freely etc., may be temporarily limited. However, even in such a case the Constitution does not provide for suspension of the rights of ownership. In addition, Paragraph 4 of Article 106 of the Constitution provides for only one situation when the validity of a law may be suspended, i.e. when by its decision the Seimas applies to the Constitutional Court requesting an investigation into the conformity of the law with the Constitution. The Constitution does not specify any other situations when the validity of a law may be suspended.

The petitioner contends that in the universal practice, including Lithuanian one, during the process of perfection of valid laws one either makes amendments of such laws or such laws are recognised as null and void when new laws are being adopted.

2. One of the signs of a democratic and state under the rule of law is the legal consolidation and implementation of the principle of the separation of powers. Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Constitution provides that in Lithuania the powers of the State shall be exercised by the Seimas, the President of the Republic and the Government, and the Judiciary. The competence of the courts as the judicial power are regulated in Chapter IX titled “The Court” of the Constitution. According to Paragraph 1 of Article 109 of the said chapter, “the courts shall have the exclusive right to administer justice”. One of the fundamental principles of justice implementation is independence of judges and courts. Article 114 of the Constitution prescribes that no one—neither institutions of state authority and administration, nor members of the Seimas and other officers, nor political parties, nor citizens—may interfere with the activities of the judge or the court. These constitutional provisions are particularised in the Law on the Judiciary, the Code of Civil Proceedings, the Code of Criminal Proceedings, as well as other legal acts.

Meanwhile, under Item 3 of Article 2 of the Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity of 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”, execution of court decisions which have taken effect shall be suspended. In this case the Seimas adopts a procedural decision in a civil case and thereby violates the constitutional provision by which the courts shall administer justice. Thus, the legislative power—the Seimas—takes over the functions of the judicial power—the court. This may be interpreted as the interference of the Seimas with the activities of the court by violating the constitutional principle of the independence of courts. Only the court may adopt a procedural decision in a civil case and, when following the provisions of the Code of Civil Proceedings, decide whether to suspend the consideration of the case and execution of the court decision. Neither the Seimas nor any other state institution may decide for the court as to what procedural actions must be performed in a civil case.

II

On 1 July 1997, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership to the Existing Real Property (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1997 No. 65-1558). Item 3 of Article 22 of the said law provides that upon entry into force of this law, the Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity 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” becomes null and void.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

1. Paragraph 4 of Article 106 of the Constitution stipulates that “the presentation by the President of the Republic for the Constitutional Court or the resolution of the Seimas asking for an investigation into the conformity of an act with the Constitution shall suspend the validity of the act”. If the Constitutional Court adopts a decision to accept a petition for a judicial investigation, the President of the Constitutional Court shall give an official announcement about the suspension of the validity of such an act (Paragraph 2 of Article 26 of the Law on the Constitutional Court).

Article 145 of the Constitution prescribes that under special conditions—during martial law or a state of emergency—the rights and freedoms specified in Articles 22, 24, 25, 32, 35, and 36 of the Constitution may be temporarily limited. This could be done by suspending the validity of certain norms of respective laws. The Constitution does not provide for any other cases of suspension of the law.

By the 16 January 1997 law the Seimas suspended the process of restoration regulation of ownership rights to existing real property. The basis for the suspension, as well as new forms of regulation of these relations and the procedure, was not established. By the way, it is not the first time when the Seimas adopts laws which suspend the validity of other laws.

It should be noted that the laws, while establishing the liberty limits of legal entities, as well as the possibilities of social activity in all spheres of life, respectively influence the behaviour of persons and shape it. Thereby the laws regulate, consolidate and safeguard social relations. Therefore, laws must not only be reciprocally co-ordinated but also sufficiently stable. Of course, dated, not effective etc. legal norms have to be changed and recognised as null and void. An analysis of the norms of Paragraph 5 titled “Legislation Proceedings” of the Statute of the Seimas also allows asserting that law-making by its nature and purpose is not connected with the suspending of the validity of laws. This is so because in the situation that emerges after the suspension of law validity one can perceive preconditions for the occurrence of ambiguities in the process of the regulation of respective social relations, as well as that of gaps in law. Alongside, there might emerge other legal problems, too. Naturally, this does not increase the confidence in laws, authority and its institutions.

Thus, one should note that suspension of validity of laws is not characteristic of law-making and, as a rule, is linked with situations pointed out in the Constitution.

2. Article 5 of the Constitution consolidates the principle of separation of powers: in Lithuania the powers of the State shall be exercised by the Seimas, the President of the Republic and the Government, and the Judiciary. The Constitution and laws determine for every branch of power its competence which corresponds the nature of the power. Thus, the independence of particular branches of power, the place of every branch of power in the overall system of powers, as well as their equilibrium, are consolidated. Every branch of power is based on the competence established in the Constitution. The constitutional principle of the separation of powers determines the independence of the judiciary.

By their legal power, court decisions which have taken effect become like laws and their execution is guaranteed by state authority, therefore, they are mandatory for all state and administrative institutions, as well as all legal and natural persons. When court decisions are adopted and executed, in the state the principle of justice is realised, the stability of legal relations established and confirmed by court decisions which have taken effect is guaranteed. This consolidates confidence of legal entities in state authority and laws. Alongside, actual possibilities are created to realise the obligation of the court to guarantee the protection of human rights, which is emphasised in the legal acts of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as the international documents.

The laws consolidate the basis for suspension of execution of court decisions which have taken effect, they establish that only the court shall have the right to decide issues concerning execution or suspension of their decisions while taking account of particular circumstances of the case (Article 238 of the Code of Civil Proceedings). Undoubtedly, the Seimas is entitled to establish other basis on the grounds of which the court is empowered to suspend execution of court decisions.

By adopting the provision of Item 3 of Article 2 of the impugned law as to the suspension of execution of court decisions which have taken effect, the Seimas paid no heed to the constitutional nature of the judicial power, therefore, this might be judged to be a limitation on the constitutional competence of the judicial power.

3. On 1 July 1997, the Seimas passed the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership to the Existing Real Property Item 3 of Article 22 whereof provides that upon entry into force of this law, the Provisional Law on the Suspension of the Validity 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” becomes null and void.

According to Paragraph 1 of Article 105 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court shall consider cases concerning the conformity of valid legal acts with the Constitution and laws, therefore, in the case at issue the Constitutional Court shall not judge the constitutionality of the impugned law which has become null and void.

Conforming to Paragraph 4 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 dismiss the initiated legal proceedings in the case.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:

 

Egidijus Jarašiūnas      Kęstutis Lapinskas      Zigmas Levickis

 

Augustinas Normantas      Vladas Pavilonis      Jonas Prapiestis

 

Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius      Teodora Staugaitienė      Juozas Žilys