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On the interpretation of a ruling of the Constitutional Court

Case No. 19/97

 

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF

THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

D E C I S I O N

 

On the construction of the 10 January 1998 ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania

 

Vilnius, 17 December 1998

 

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, pursuant to Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 10 December 1998, in a court sitting, considered the petition of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting the construction of the statement “the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions” which is used in the last paragraph but one of Item 3.3 of the statement part of the Ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania “On the Compliance of the Seimas Resolution ‘On the Programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 10 December 1996 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of 10 January 1998, as well as the formulation “unless more than half of the ministers have been changed” which was used in the same ruling.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

On 10 January 1998, the Constitutional Court passed a ruling by which it recognised that the Seimas Resolution “On the Programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania” of 10 December 1996 was in compliance with the Constitution. The petitioner requests the construction of certain provisions of the said ruling of the Constitutional Court.

In the court sitting, K. Čilinskas, the Government Chancellor, explained that after the election of the President of the Republic, and after the President of the Republic had taken his oath, the Government returned its powers to the newly elected President of the Republic. By means of its resolution of 10 March 1998, the Seimas approved of the candidature for the Prime Minister which had been submitted by the 6 March 1998 decree of the President of the Republic. The President of the Republic, by his 10 March 1998 decree, appointed G. Vagnorius Prime Minister and commissioned him to form the Government. By means of the 25 March 1998 decree of the President of the Republic, the composition of the Government was confirmed. The Prime Minister and the ministers were sworn in at the Seimas. The Government is of the opinion that the said procedures mean that the Government was empowered anew to exercise its functions. However, after part of the ministers have been changed, questions arose as for under what criteria the changing of ministers in the Government should be calculated and whether the Government of the present composition must be empowered anew to exercise its functions? Therefore, the Government requests the construction of the meaning of the statement “the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions” of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, as well as the formulation “unless more than half of the ministers have been changed” which was used in the same ruling.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

1.1. The question of the returning of the powers of the Government is analysed in Item 3.3 of the Constitutional Court ruling of 10 January 1998. In the last paragraph but one of this item it is pointed out that the returning of the powers procedure provides the President of the Republic with the opportunity for checking whether the Seimas remains to be confident in the Seimas. The President of the Republic, following Article 92 and Item 8 of Article 84 of the Constitution, as well as taking account of the tradition of parliamentary democracy, under the procedure established by Item 8 of Article 84 of the Constitution, submits to the Seimas the candidature of the Prime Minister of the Government that has returned its powers for consideration. Upon the consent of the Seimas to the candidature of the Prime Minister, upon the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic, and upon the approval of the composition of the Government submitted, the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions, unless more than half of the ministers have been changed.

The petitioner requests the construction of how one should understand the statement “the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions” which is used in the last paragraph but one of the said item of the statement part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

The Constitutional Court notes that that a ruling of the Constitutional Court constitutes an indivisible whole. The operative part of a ruling is based on the arguments and reasoning of the statement part. While construing particular provisions of the ruling, the Constitutional Court is bound by the content of the said ruling (Paragraph 3 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court).

1.2. Assessing the compliance of the Seimas resolution of 10 December 1996 with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court analysed the legal significance of the Programme of the Government and the constitutional relations of the supreme institutions of power which are linked with this. The peculiarity of these relations are disclosed when one compares the notions “resignation of the Government” and “returning of the powers of the Government” which are used in the Constitution. The Constitutional Court held that they may not be treated as identical. They are linked with different legal situations. This also determines different legal effects.

The grounds for the resignation of the Government are established by Paragraph 3 of Article 101 of the Constitution. Under Paragraph 2 of Article 101 of the Constitution, the Government must also resign if it has not been re-invested with authority by the Seimas after more than half of the ministers were changed. The resignation of the Government is linked with loss or non-acquirement of the trust of the Seimas in the Government. The resignation of the Government means that its activities terminate. After the resignation, and in the case provided for by Item 4 of Paragraph 3 of Article 101 of the Constitution—prior to it, the procedure of the formation of a new Government begins. Therefore, it needs to be noted that a new Government may be formed and a Programme of the Government may be confirmed only after the resignation of the Government.

The returning of the powers of the Government has another legal meaning, which was explained in the ruling. The Constitution expressly provides that the Government shall return its powers after an election of the Seimas and an election of the President of the Republic. As mentioned above, when more than half of the ministers have been changed, the Government must be empowered anew to exercise its functions as well. In case the Government is not empowered anew, it must resign.

It was noted in the Constitutional Court’s ruling that, after an election of the President of the Republic, the Government also returns its powers to a newly elected President of the Republic. However, the Constitution does not prescribe that the Government must resign then. This is due to the fact that after the change of the Head of State, the confidence of the Seimas in the Government remains intact. Upon the consent of the Seimas to the candidature of the Prime Minister of the Government which has returned its powers, upon the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic, and upon the approval of the composition of the Government submitted, the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions, unless more than half of the ministers have been changed. Upon the consent of the Seimas to the candidature nominated by the President of the Republic of the Prime Minister of the Government which returned its powers, upon the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic, and upon the approval of the composition of the Government submitted, it is recognised that the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions, unless more than half of the ministers have been changed.

The Constitutional Court notes that in such a case it means that the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions, therefore, changes of the ministers must be calculated from the moment when the Government was empowered anew.

2. The petitioner also requests the explanation of whether the formulation “unless more than half of the ministers have been changed” which was used in the same ruling of the Constitutional Court presumes the change of the composition of the Government which is regulated by Article 202 of the Statute of the Seimas. The petitioner asks the Constitutional Court whether the cases when ministers were dismissed due to the abolition of particular institutions or because such office no longer existed, and by virtue of the changing of the name of the post of ministers after the government functions of ministries had either been expanded or reduced even though the ministers continued to work should be deemed to be such a change of the composition of the Government. The petitioner also wants to know whether it is recognised that ministers have been changed when not a single minister was changed after some ministries had been abolished and their functions had been distributed to the other ministries.

The Constitutional Court notes that these questions were not investigated in the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 10 January 1998, therefore, they may not be construed. This is a matter of a special investigation.

Conforming to Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

decision:

1. To construe that the statement “the Government is empowered anew to exercise its functions” upon the consent of the Seimas to the candidature of the Prime Minister, upon the appointment of the Prime Minister by the President of the Republic, and upon the approval of the composition of the Government submitted, unless more than half of the ministers have been changed, which is used in the last paragraph but one of Item 3.3 of the statement part of the Ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania “On the Compliance of the Seimas Resolution ‘On the Programme of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 10 December 1996 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of 10 January 1998, means that a new period of the powers of the Government begins, therefore, the change of ministers in the Government should be calculated from the beginning of this period.

2. To refuse to construe the formulation “unless more than half of the ministers have been changed.”

Justices of the Constitutional Court:

 

Egidijus Jarašiūnas      Kęstutis Lapinskas     Zigmas Levickis

 

Augustinas Normantas      Vladas Pavilonis     Jonas Prapiestis

 

Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius      Teodora Staugaitienė      Juozas Žilys