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On the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 related to the spelling of the name and surname of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania

Case No. 14/98

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 DECISION

ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE RULING OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA OF 21 OCTOBER 1999

 27 February 2014
Vilnius

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

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Paulius Griciūnas, Vice-Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, and Liucija Šimkutė, chief specialist of the Division of Legal Assistance of the Legal Institutions’ Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, acting as the representatives of the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, the petitioner

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Court’s public hearing, on 13 February 2014, considered a petition of the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania requesting a construction of the provisions of Item 4 of the reasoning part and the operative part of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 21 October 1999.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

  1. In constitutional justice case No. 14/98 of 21 October 1999, the Constitutional Court adopted the Ruling “On the Compliance of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 90-2662; hereinafter also referred to as the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999).
  2. The Minister of Justice, the petitioner, requests a construction of whether:

– the provisions “the legislature must establish by law how the use of this [state] language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language” and “the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language” of Item 4 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 mean that, if a state institution is composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and, to the extent defined by law, to carry out the state policy of language (regardless of how this most important purpose of the aforementioned institution is defined in laws, what other functions, in addition to those mentioned, are carried out by this institution, and regardless of the subordination of such an institution), the legislature may still establish the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania without knowing the position of the aforementioned state institution on the said issue (i.e. without having received any proposals submitted by means of its official legal act), and, if such a position (proposals) were set out in a specific act of the said institution, the legislature could act without following it, i.e. unilaterally;

– the provision “Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of the operative part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 means that, under the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, it is possible to establish only those rules of writing names and family names that are established in the said item (i.e. that the name and family name of a person shall be written in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania in Lithuanian characters and according to pronunciation), and their amendment may not be initiated even by a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and, to the extent defined by law, to carry out the state policy of language (regardless of how this most important purpose of the aforementioned institution is defined in laws, what other functions, in addition to those mentioned, are carried out by this institution, and regardless of the subordination of such an institution).

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

  1. Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court prescribes that the Constitutional Court officially construes its own ruling at the request of the persons that participated in the case, of other institutions or persons to whom it was sent, or on its own initiative. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 60 of the Law on the Constitutional Court a ruling of the Constitutional Court shall be sent, inter alia, to the Minister of Justice. Thus, the Minister of Justice has the right to request that the Constitutional Court construe the provisions of the ruling in question.
  2. The Law on the Constitutional Court consolidates the powers of the Constitutional Court to officially construe its own rulings (Article 61).

The Constitutional Court has held that, although the powers of the Constitutional Court to construe its own rulings and other final acts are not expressis verbis established in the Constitution, these powers undoubtedly stem from the Constitution—the entire content of the constitutional legal regulation (inter alia, the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law); such powers of the Constitutional Court are implied by the Constitutional Court’s constitutional mission itself to administer constitutional justice, to guarantee the supremacy of the Constitution in the legal system and the constitutional legality (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 14 March 2006, 29 November 2012, 13 March 2013, 3 July 2013, and 16 January 2014).

  1. In its acts, the Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the purpose of the institute of the construction of its rulings and other final acts is to disclose the content and meaning of certain provisions of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court more broadly and in more detail, if it is necessary, in order that the proper execution of that ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court would be ensured and the said ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court would be followed (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 22 December 2010, 5 September 2011, and 29 November 2012). The construction of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court might be significant not only in order to ensure proper implementation of the decision consolidated in the operative part of that act, but also to ensure the fact that in the law-making process one would properly take account of the official constitutional doctrine formed by the Constitutional Court (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 29 November 2012, 13 March 2013, 3 July 2013, and 16 January 2014). In its decision of 29 November 2012, the Constitutional Court emphasised that the purpose of the construction of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court is to explain more comprehensively those provisions and formulations of the Constitutional Court’s ruling or its another final act due to the meaning of which there have been some uncertainties but not to explain how to implement the said ruling or another final act in a concrete situation, inter alia, in the area of the application of law.
  2. The Constitutional Court has emphasised on more than one occasion that the consideration of a petition requesting the construction of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court does not imply any new constitutional justice case.

In view of this fact, it should also be noted that, under Paragraph 3 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court must construe its ruling without changing its content. The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the said provision, among other things, means that, while construing its ruling, the Constitutional Court may not construe the content of the ruling in such a way that the meaning of its provisions, inter alia, the notional entirety of the elements constituting the content of the ruling, and the arguments and reasons upon which that ruling of the Constitutional Court is based would be changed. A ruling of the Constitutional Court is integral, and all its constituent parts are interrelated; the operative (resolving) part of a ruling is based upon the arguments of the reasoning part; while construing its ruling, the Constitutional Court is bound by the content of both the operative part and reasoning part of its ruling.

When construing Paragraph 3 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court has stated in its acts on more than one occasion that the Constitutional Court may not construe what it did not investigate in the constitutional justice case in which the ruling, the construction of which is requested, was adopted; this would imply a matter for a separate investigation.

  1. It should also be noted that the uniformity and continuity of the official constitutional doctrine imply the necessity to construe each provision of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court in the light of the entire official constitutional doctrinal context as well as of other provisions (either explicit or implicit) of the Constitution that are related to the provision (provisions) of the Constitution in the course of the construction of which the relevant provision of the official constitutional doctrine was formulated in a certain ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court. As the Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion, no official constitutional doctrinal provision of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court may be construed in isolation, by ignoring its meaning and systemic links with the other official constitutional doctrinal provisions set forth in the relevant ruling, another final act of the Constitutional Court, or in other acts of the Constitutional Court, as well as with other provisions (either explicit or implicit) of the Constitution (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 6 December 2007, 28 October 2009, 13 March 2013, and 3 July 2013).
  2. It has also been held in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court on more than one occasion that the formulation “shall be final and not subject to appeal” of Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, which provides that the decisions of the Constitutional Court on issues ascribed to its competence by the Constitution shall be final and not subject to appeal, also means that the Constitutional Court’s rulings, conclusions and decisions by which a constitutional justice case is finished, i.e. the final acts of the Constitutional Court, are obligatory to all state institutions, courts, enterprises, establishments and organisations, as well as officials and citizens, including the Constitutional Court itself: the final acts of the Constitutional Court are obligatory to the Constitutional Court itself, they restrict the Constitutional Court in the aspect that it may not change them or review them if there are no constitutional grounds for that.
  3. The Constitutional Court has also held on more than one occasion that in the official construction (subsequent to a petition of the parties to the case, other institutions and individuals, to whom the Constitutional Court’s ruling was sent, also on the initiative of the Constitutional Court itself) of the rulings and other final acts of the Constitutional Court, the official constitutional doctrine is not corrected; the correction of the official constitutional doctrine (which, undoubtedly, must always have a constitutional basis and be explicitly reasoned in the Constitutional Court’s act in question) should be linked to the consideration of new constitutional justice cases and the creation of new Constitutional Court’s precedents therein, but not with the official construction of the provisions of the Constitutional Court’s rulings and other final acts (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 6 December 2007, 1 February 2008, 6 November 2009, 13 March 2013, and 16 January 2014).

II

  1. The Minister of Justice requests a construction of the provisions “the legislature must establish by law how the use of this [state] language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language” and “the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language” of Item 4 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999.

The petitioner requests a construction of whether the said provisions mean that, if a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, of representatives of other branches of linguistics as well), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and, to the extent defined by law, to carry out the state policy of language (regardless of how this most important purpose of the aforementioned institution is defined in laws, what other functions, in addition to those mentioned, are carried out by this institution, and regardless of the subordination of such an institution), the legislature may still establish the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania without knowing the position of the aforementioned state institution on the said issue (i.e. without having received any proposals submitted by means of its official legal act), and, if such a position (proposals) were set out in a specific act of the said institution, the legislature could act without following it, i.e. unilaterally.

  1. The provisions of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, the construction of which is requested by the petitioner, is a part of the broader text set forth in Item 4 of the reasoning part of the said ruling. The Constitutional Court, inter alia, held the following:

“The state language is an important guarantee of the equality of rights of citizens as it enables all the citizens to communicate with state and municipal establishments under the same conditions and to implement their rights and legitimate interests. The constitutional establishment of the status of the state language also means that the legislature must establish by law how the use of this language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language. Lithuanian, after it has acquired the status of the state language under the Constitution, must be used in all state and local government institutions, and in all establishments, enterprises and organisations which are on the territory of Lithuania; laws and other legal acts must be published in the state language; clerical work, accounting, accountabilities and financial papers must be in Lithuanian; state and local government institutions, establishments, enterprises and organisations correspond with each other in the state language.

<...>

Taking account of the fact that the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania is an official document certifying a permanent legal link between an individual and the state, i.e. the citizenship of an individual, and the fact that citizenship relations belong to the sphere of the public life of the state, the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language. Otherwise, the constitutional status of the state language would be denied.”

  1. In its acts the Constitutional Court has noted on more than one occasion that the Constitution entrenches the principle of responsible governance (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 1 July 2004, its conclusion of 5 November 2004, its rulings of 13 December 2004 and 4 April 2006). The Constitutional Court has also noted that one of the essential elements of the principle of a state under the rule of law, which is consolidated in the Constitution, is legal clarity, which implies certain obligatory requirements for legal regulation: legal regulation must be clear and harmonious, legal norms must be formulated precisely and may not contain any ambiguities (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 30 May 2003 and 26 January 2004, and its decision of 20 April 2010). In its ruling of 4 April 2006, the Constitutional Court held that the Constitution did not imply any such activities of the Seimas where the Seimas itself collects all the information necessary for legislation and other functions of the Seimas, by not relying on the information submitted to it by other state institutions.

In view of this fact, it should be noted that the constitutional principles of responsible governance and a state under the rule of law imply that in cases when, in the process of law-making, it is necessary to rely on special knowledge or special (professional) competence, the Seimas should receive necessary information from respective state institutions and take account of it.

  1. In its decision of 6 November 2009, the Constitutional Court, while construing its Ruling “On the Compliance of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of 21 October 1991, noted that “under the Constitution, Lithuanian characters and essential issues related to their use, inter alia, the principles of a corresponding transcription, must be defined by the legislature or a state institution authorised by it”.

In this context it should be mentioned that, under Article 20 (“The State Commission of the Lithuanian Language shall establish the trends and tasks of the protection of the state language and approve linguistic norms”) of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the State Language (wording of 31 January 1995) that was adopted by the Seimas on 31 January 1995 and came into force on 18 February 1995, the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language (hereinafter also referred to as the SCLL) is such an authorised state institution.

  1. The legal regulation that entrenches the writing of the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania shows that, when establishing the said regulation, the position set out by the SCLL on writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania was invoked.

The material of the constitutional justice case, in which the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 on the compliance of the legal act entrenching the aforementioned regulation with the Constitution was adopted, also makes it clear that the SCLL has submitted an official conclusion on writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania.

5.1. The Preamble to the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991 establishes that the Supreme Council adopted the said resolution “by taking account of the proposals made by the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language”.

5.2. The shorthand record of the sitting of the Supreme Council makes it clear that, while drawing up a draft Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991, the proposals of the SCLL were followed in various aspects: “[t]he State Commission of the Lithuanian Language discussed the writing of names and family names in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and adopted a resolution”; “pursuant to the resolution of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, the Commission of the Legal System has drawn up a draft resolution on writing names and family names in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania”; “the writing of personal names is a matter for linguists to decide, and we have decided to adopt a decision upon the submission of, specifically, the institution that has been created to solve that issue, i.e. the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language”; “the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language has its position and <...> this commission should have the final word” (the shorthand record of the sitting of the Supreme Council (No. 113) of 31 January 1991).

5.3. The Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, in which the Constitutional Court investigated whether Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991 was not in conflict with the Constitution, was adopted, inter alia, after assessing the conclusion that “the Language Commission is not aware of any fact that a certain state, when it enters personal names on passports of citizens, would go beyond the limits of its alphabet”, which was presented by Danguolė Mikulėnienė, the then Chairperson of the SCLL, in the constitutional justice case in question (Letter (No. 01-10-615) “On Writing Personal Names” of 24 November 1998 of Danguolė Mikulėnienė, Chairperson of the SCLL (page 18 of constitutional justice case No. 14-98); explanations of Danguolė Mikulėnienė, Chairperson of the SCLL, at the Constitutional Court’s hearing (the minutes of the Constitutional Court’s hearing of 12 October 1999).

  1. It has been mentioned that, under the Constitution, Lithuanian characters and essential issues related to their use, inter alia, the principles of a corresponding transcription, must be defined by the legislature or a state institution authorised by it.
  2. Thus, inter alia, in view of the fact that the Constitution does not imply any such activities of the Seimas where the Seimas itself collects all the information necessary for legislation, by not relying on the information submitted to it by other state institutions, and in cases where, when it is necessary to rely on special knowledge or special (professional) competence, the Seimas must receive such information, it should be held that when the legislature, while establishing the legal regulation of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, needs special knowledge, it must receive an official conclusion, inter alia, an explicit position, and clear proposals from persons (institutions) having special knowledge or special (professional) competence, inter alia, a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and to carry out the state policy of language (at present, from the SCLL—the institution specified in the law). When deciding on how the name and family name of a person must be written in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, the legislature may not disregard the official conclusions received, including the official conclusion of the SCLL and its position (proposals) set out.
  3. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that the provisions “the legislature must establish by law how the use of this [state] language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language” and “the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language” of Item 4 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, inter alia, mean that when the legislature, while establishing the legal regulation of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, needs special knowledge, it must receive an official conclusion, inter alia, an explicit position, and clear proposals, which the legislature may not disregard, from persons (institutions) having special (professional) knowledge, inter alia, a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and to carry out the state policy of language.
  4. Alongside, it should be noted that the Constitutional Court has held that the compliance of laws and other legal acts of the Seimas with the Constitution is also ensured by the internal preventive control implemented by the Seimas in the manner established in the Statute of the Seimas, which prevents the adoption of laws and other legal acts which could possibly contradict the Constitution or other legal acts of higher power (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 19 January 2005). In this context, it should be noted that, in respect of such internal preventive control, it is important that the Seimas takes account of the information necessary for law-making, which is submitted by other state institutions, and assesses it. When establishing by law how the name and family name of a person must be written in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, special knowledge or special (professional) competence should be invoked; therefore, the Seimas, while following the constitutional principle of responsible governance, must appropriately assess the official conclusions received, inter alia, the official conclusion of the SCLL and its position (proposals) set out.

III

  1. The Minister of Justice requests a construction of the provision “Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of the operative part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999.

The petitioner requests a construction of whether the said provision of the operative part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 means that, under the Constitution, it is possible to establish only those rules of writing names and family names that are established in the said item (i.e. that the name and family name of a person are written in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania in Lithuanian characters and according to pronunciation), and their amendment may not be initiated even by a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and, to the extent defined by law, to carry out the state policy of language (regardless of how this most important purpose of the aforementioned institution is defined in laws, what other functions, in addition to those mentioned, are carried out by this institution, and regardless of the subordination of such an institution).

  1. Items 2 and 3 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991 prescribe:

“2. The names and family names of persons of non-Lithuanian nationality shall be written in the issued passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in Lithuanian characters. At a citizen’s written request of established form, their name and family name shall be written:

(a) according to pronunciation and without applying grammatical rules (without Lithuanian inflexions)

or

(b) according to pronunciation and by applying grammatical rules (by adding Lithuanian inflexions).

  1. The names and family names of persons who have held the citizenship of another state may be written in the issued passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania according to the passport of the citizen of the said state or an equivalent document.”
  2. Thus, Item 2 of the said Resolution of the Supreme Council, which was investigated by the Constitutional Court, establishes two main rules: the names and family names of persons of non-Lithuanian nationality are written in the issued passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in the following way: 1) in Lithuanian characters, and 2) according to pronunciation, without applying grammatical rules (without Lithuanian inflexions) or by applying grammatical rules (by adding Lithuanian inflexions).

Item 3 of the aforementioned resolution of the Supreme Council establishes an exception to the rule consolidated in Item 2 of the said resolution: the names and family names of persons referred to therein may be written in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania that are issued to them according to the passport of the citizen of the state, the citizenship of which they have held, or an equivalent document.

It should be noted that, in its ruling of 21 October 1999, the Constitutional Court did not investigate the compliance of Item 3 of the resolution of the Supreme Council of 31 January 1991 with the Constitution. It has been mentioned that, as the Constitutional Court has held in its acts on more than one occasion, the Constitutional Court may not construe what it did not investigate in the constitutional justice case in which the ruling, the construction of which is requested, was adopted; this would imply a matter for a separate investigation.

  1. The passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania is a document certifying the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania and personal identity. The name and family name of a citizen, as well as other data concerning them, are entered on the passport (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999). In the said ruling, the Constitutional Court also held that in case legal norms provided that the names and family names of citizens had to be written in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed.

In its decision of 6 November 2009, the Constitutional Court, while construing the provision, in which the formulation “in Lithuanian characters” is used, of Item 7 of the reasoning part of its ruling of 21 October 1999, noted that the basis of the characters of the Lithuanian language, as the state language of Lithuania, as well as of the absolute majority of the state (official) languages of European countries, is Latin characters.

  1. In its rulings of 21 December 2006 and 2 March 2009, the Constitutional Court referred to various objective changes which can determine the necessity to amend legal regulation. Various objective changes in the Lithuanian language, including the writing of personal names, may also have an effect on the development of the Lithuanian language.
  2. It has been mentioned that, under the Constitution, Lithuanian characters and essential issues related to their use, inter alia, the principles of a corresponding transcription, must be defined by the legislature or a state institution authorised by it. It has been mentioned that at the moment the SCLL is such a state institution authorised by law.

6.1. It has been mentioned that, under Article 14 of the Constitution, Lithuanian shall be the state language. In its ruling of 5 May 2007, the Constitutional Court, while construing this constitutional provision, inter alia, noted that the Lithuanian language is a special constitutional value, it is the basis of ethnic and cultural distinction of the Lithuanian nation, the guarantee of the identity and survival of the nation; the Lithuanian language protects the identity of the nation, integrates the civil society, ensures the integrity and indivisibility of the state, the normal functioning of state and local government establishments; the state language—the common Lithuanian language—is a means of legalising the sovereignty of the nation and its dignified communication with the world. It has been mentioned that, in its ruling of 21 October 1999, the Constitutional Court held that the constitutional establishment of the status of the state language also means that the legislature has to establish by law how the use of that language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it has to provide for the means of the protection of the state language.

Thus, under the Constitution, the legislature or a state institution authorised by it, when the said institution defines the essential issues of the use of the state language, when, inter alia, it establishes the rules of writing the names and family names of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, must pay heed to the constitutional imperative of the protection of the state Lithuanian language and assess any potential danger for the common Lithuanian language and the distinctiveness of the Lithuanian language. Under the Constitution, there is no tolerance for the fact that these rules, inter alia, entrenching the writing of non-Lithuanian personal names (a name and family name) in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, would be established without having assessed their impact on the common Lithuanian language, the distinctiveness of the Lithuanian language, inter alia, the writing of Lithuanian personal names.

6.2. Alongside, it should be noted that Article 19 of the Law on the State Language, inter alia, establishes that the state shall enhance the prestige of the correct Lithuanian language, provide conditions for protecting linguistic norms, personal names, place-names, dialects and written language monuments; in Article 20 of the said law it is noted that the SCLL establishes the fields and tasks of the protection of the state language and approves linguistic norms.

Article 3 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language establishes that the SCLL, inter alia, shall deal with the issues of implementing the Law on the State Language, submit proposals to the Seimas, the President of the Republic of Lithuania and the Government on the issues of implementing the language policy and the Law on the State Language, and submit conclusions to state institutions and establishments on the draft legal acts that contain provisions regulating the use of the state language.

Thus, under the established legal regulation, the SCLL must submit proposals and conclusions to law-making subjects, inter alia, on the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania.

6.3. It has been mentioned that, in its decision of 6 November 2009, the Constitutional Court, while construing the provision, in which the formulation “in Lithuanian characters” is used, of Item 7 of the reasoning part of its ruling of 21 October 1999, noted that the basis of the characters of the Lithuanian language, as the state language of Lithuania, as well as of the absolute majority of the state (official) languages of European countries, is Latin characters.

It is generally known that, although the Lithuanian alphabet has been created on the basis of Latin characters, it also has its own distinctive symbols of writing, which reflect unique phonetic features of the Lithuanian language.

6.4. In this context, it should be mentioned that Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Lithuanian Constitution of 1938 established that Lithuanian was the state language.

The Law on Family Names that was adopted by the Seimas on 6 December 1938, inter alia, prescribed: “[e]very person must be entered on the register of the establishment issuing birth certificates. They are entered by making out a birth act (Article 1); “[t]he family name of a non-Lithuanian national shall be written in accordance with the laws of the Lithuanian language and spelling, however, it may also be written in the way its owner writes it in their own language if they request that and if the alphabet of that language is Latin” (Article 24).

  1. To summarise the foregoing, it should be noted that, under the Constitution, the legislature or a state institution authorised by it, when the said institution defines the essential issues of the use of the state language, inter alia, when it establishes the rules of writing the names and family names of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, must pay heed to the constitutional imperative of the protection of the state Lithuanian language and assess any potential danger for the common Lithuanian language and the distinctiveness of the Lithuanian language. Under the Constitution, there is no tolerance for the fact that these rules, inter alia, entrenching the writing of non-Lithuanian personal names (a name and family name) in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, would be established without having assessed their impact on the common Lithuanian language and the distinctiveness of the Lithuanian language.

In view of this fact, it should be held that the SCLL must submit an official conclusion of whether it is also possible to establish the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, other than those established in Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991, inter alia, of whether the formulation “in the state language” of the constitutional requirement “the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language” and the formulation “in Lithuanian characters” may be understood as meaning that in certain cases when writing non-Lithuanian names and family names in passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania it is possible to use not only the letters of the Lithuanian alphabet but also other exclusively Latin-based characters, to the extent that they are consistent with the tradition of the Lithuanian language and that they do not violate the system of the Lithuanian language and the distinctiveness of the Lithuanian language.

It should be noted that the SCLL must submit an official conclusion also in those cases when the legal acts that have been prepared by other law-making subjects and that are related to writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania are deliberated.

  1. In this context it should also be noted that the Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that, under the Constitution, the legal regulation related to defining the content of human rights and freedoms or consolidating the guarantees of their implementation may be established only by law. Therefore, the essential rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania must be established by law.
  2. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that the provision “Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of the operative part of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, inter alia, means that following the requirements stemming from the Constitution, inter alia, Article 14 thereof, it is possible to establish, by means of a law, the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, other than those established in Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991, when their amendment is proposed by a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language.

Conforming to Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1 and 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

decision:

  1. To construe that the provisions “the legislature must establish by law how the use of this [state] language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language” and “the name and family name of a person must be written in a citizen’s passport in the state language” of Item 4 of the reasoning part of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 21 October 1999 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 90-2662), inter alia, mean that when the legislature, while establishing the legal regulation of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, needs special knowledge, it must receive an official conclusion, inter alia, an explicit position, and clear proposals, which the legislature may not disregard, from persons (institutions) having special (professional) knowledge, inter alia, a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language, to establish, within its competence, the guidelines on the state language policy (or to propose that respective legislative and executive institutions establish the said guidelines by means of legal acts they adopt) and to carry out the state policy of language.
  2. To construe that the provision “Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of the operative part of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 21 October 1999 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 90-2662), inter alia, means that following the requirements stemming from the Constitution, inter alia, Article 14 thereof, it is also possible to establish the rules of writing the name and family name of a person in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, other than those established in Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991, when their amendment is proposed by a state institution, composed, under the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, of professional linguists—Lithuanian language specialists (and, to the extent permitted by law, also of representatives of other branches of linguistics), which enjoys the powers to take care of the protection of the state language.

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

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                                     Toma Birmontienė
                                                                                                         Pranas Kuconis
                                                                                                         Gediminas Mesonis
                                                                                                         Vytas Milius
                                                                                                         Ramutė Ruškytė
                                                                                                         Egidijus Šileikis
                                                                                                         Algirdas Taminskas
                                                                                                         Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis
                                                                                                         Dainius Žalimas