Lt

On the parliamentary procedures established in the Statute of the Seimas

Case No. 3/99

 

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF

THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

R U L I N G

 

On the compliance of Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 38, Paragraph 5 of Article 41, Paragraph 5 of Article 152, Paragraph 4 of Article 155, Paragraph 5 of Article 156, Article 180, Paragraphs 4 and 11 of Article 208 and Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania

 

Vilnius, 25 January 2001

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Egidijus Jarašiūnas, Egidijus Kūris, Zigmas Levickis, Augustinas Normantas, Vladas Pavilonis, Jonas Prapiestis, Vytautas Sinkevičius, Stasys Stačiokas, and Teodora Staugaitienė

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Seimas member Juozas Bernatonis, acting as the representative of the petitioner—a group of members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Ona Buišienė, the chief consultant to the Law Department of the Office of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Paragraph 1 of Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 16 January 2001, in its public hearing, considered case No. 3/99 subsequent to the petition submitted to the Court by a group of members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether the provisions of Articles 23, 38, 41, 152, 155, 156, 180, 208, 231 and 259 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania were in compliance with the provisions of Articles 1, 8, 59, 61, 62, 63, 67, 68, 74, 130 and 132 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

1. On 22 December 1998, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Statute of the Seimas “On the Amendment of the Statute” (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 5-97).

The petitioner—a group of Seimas members—requests the Constitutional Court to investigate whether the provisions of Articles 23, 38, 41, 152, 155, 156, 180, 208, 231 and 259 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with the provisions of Articles 1, 8, 59, 61, 62, 63, 67, 68, 74, 130 and 132 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

2. The petition of the petitioner is based on these arguments.

Paragraph 1 of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that after the Seimas has heard the report of the Prosecutor General concerning the crime committed by a Seimas member, it shall decide whether to form an investigation commission for the consent to bring the Seimas member to criminal liability, or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings. In the opinion of the petitioner, thereby the constitutional right and duty of Seimas members to follow the Constitution, the interests of the state, and their conscience are restricted, as well as the right of a free decision of the Seimas is limited as it becomes impossible not to adopt any of the aforesaid decisions nor is it possible to adopt both decisions for the same case. The petitioner also maintains that Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas is in conflict with Articles 8 and 62 of the Constitution on the grounds that after the Seimas gives its consent for bringing the Seimas member to criminal liability, the said article does not provide that the Seimas member may not be arrested in the House of the Seimas.

Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members (earlier it was provided that a parliamentary group shall consist of at least three Seimas members). The petitioner is of the opinion that the increase of the number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group imposes a limitation on the opportunities for Seimas members to implement the right of a free mandate which is defined in Article 59 of the Constitution. As the previous work practice of the Seimas shows, the presence of small parliamentary groups did not restrict the efficiency of the activities of the Seimas but created conditions for Seimas members to better perform their constitutional duties.

Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas establishes additional requirements for the opposition leader. In the earlier in force Statute of the Seimas it was provided that one of the heads of parliamentary groups forming an opposition coalition might be elected leader of the opposition coalition. In the opinion of the petitioner, Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute in its new wording contains an additional precondition: the opposition parliamentary group or their coalition must have more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority so that its head could be referred to as the opposition leader. Thereby the right of the opposition to elect its leader is abolished. Such amendments of the Statute of the Seimas conflict with the principle of natural formation and consolidation of the opposition, which has become an established principle in traditional democracies, as well as with provisions of Articles 1 and 59 of the Constitution.

Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that in the course of the consideration of a draft at Seimas sittings, the person presiding over the sitting shall not present draft amendments and supplements proposed by Seimas members for consideration in case they are supported by less than 10 members of the Seimas. In the opinion of the petitioner, such a norm limits the right of legislative initiative of Seimas members which is established in Article 68 of the Constitution, and conflicts with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member (Article 59 of the Constitution). This right of a Seimas member is limited by provisions of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas in its new wording as well. Under the said provisions, only those draft amendments proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members. Under the impugned provisions, the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas majority are placed in an advantageous situation as their number is twice as many as 1/5 of the Seimas members. Meanwhile, the proposals of small parliamentary groups (including the opposition) in fact cannot be implemented. Thereby the equality of Seimas members is violated.

Paragraph 4 of Article 180 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that the committees of the Seimas, parliamentary groups or individual Seimas members may propose a draft law on amendment of certain budgetary expenditures. However, Article 132 of the Constitution provides that the budget shall be changed according to the same procedure by which it was drafted, adopted and approved, while Article 130 of the Constitution provides that the Government shall prepare a draft budget of the State, and shall submit it to the Seimas. According to the petitioner, the granting of the right of initiative to amend the state budget for Seimas committees, parliamentary groups and Seimas members is not in line with the provisions of Articles 130 and 132 of the Constitution.

Paragraph 4 of Article 208 of the Statute provides that the person presiding over the Seimas sitting may cut short any question posed by a Seimas member to a member of the Government if, in the opinion of the person presiding over the sitting, this question resembles either a statement of the Seimas member or a declaration of his opinion. It is also provided in Paragraph 11 of this article that decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable. In the opinion of the petitioner, this creates the conditions for the person presiding over the sitting to limit the rights of Seimas members and it conflicts with provisions of Articles 59, 61 and 67 of the Constitution.

It is provided in Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas that after the Seimas has heard the report of the Prosecutor General concerning the crime committed by a Seimas member, it shall adopt one of the two decisions: to form an investigation commission for the consent to bring the Seimas member to criminal liability, or to initiate preliminary actions of the procedure for impeachment proceedings. Preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings and the procedure for impeachment proceedings may not be initiated in the Seimas until the question of criminal liability has not been decided. In the opinion of the petitioner, such a norm conflicts with provisions of Articles 62 and 74 of the Constitution.

Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that upon receiving a copy of the effective judgment of conviction from a court, the Seimas shall adopt a decision on removal of the person from office of a Seimas member or on revocation of a mandate of a Seimas member. Article 74 of the Constitution provides that the mandate of a Seimas member is revoked in accordance with the procedure for impeachment proceedings. Article 63 of the Constitution contains an exhaustive list of situations due to which the powers of a Seimas member cease, however, it is not provided that his powers cease upon going into effect of judgment of conviction in a criminal case. It is also provided in the Statute of the Seimas that after the beginning of impeachment proceedings is announced, during the hearings of the proceedings the Seimas becomes an impeachment institution in the hearings of which the impeached person takes part. Meanwhile, Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that a decision must be adopted on revocation of the mandate of the Seimas member in a regular Seimas sitting in the absence of the Seimas member whose mandate is revoked. Such a decision is signed by the Speaker of the Seimas, while during the impeachment proceedings it is signed by the person presiding over the sitting (President of the Supreme Court or any other justice of this court, or President of the Constitutional Court or any other justice of this court). Therefore, in the opinion of the petitioner, Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas is in conflict with provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution and the common norms of Part VIII entitled “Impeachment Proceedings” of the Statute of the Seimas which regulate the impeachment procedure.

II

1. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court hearing, an explanation was received from Dr. Assoc. Prof. T. Birmontienė, Head of the Constitutional Law Department of the Public Administration Faculty, Law Academy of Lithuania.

It is maintained in the explanation that the provisions of Articles 23 and 231 of the Statute of the Seimas are in conformity with Articles 62 and 74 of the Constitution as they decide the issue of preliminary actions for impeachment proceedings but not that of revocation of the mandate of a Seimas member. The establishment of the concrete size of a parliamentary group is within the competence of the Seimas and is in compliance with Article 59 of the Constitution as it prevents no person from joining another parliamentary group or expression of his convictions in other manner. T. Birmontienė noted that the establishment of the status of the opposition leader is a discretionary right of the Seimas. One or another regulation of this right in itself does not deny the democracy principle, therefore, Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Articles 1 and 59 of the Constitution. The norms of Paragraph 5 of Article 152, Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas are in conformity with Articles 68 and 59 of the Constitution as the former regulate concrete procedures of legislation.

It is also maintained in the explanation that the provisions of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas which are impugned by the petitioner conflict with the Constitution as they infringe the rights of a Seimas member, which are entrenched in the Constitution.

2. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court hearing, an explanation was received from Dr. E. Šileikis, senior assistant at the Faculty of Law, Vilnius University. It is maintained therein that the independence of the Seimas is limited by the competence of the Seimas established in the Constitution and the duty to observe the Constitution and effective laws.

E. Šileikis noted that the Constitution does not regulate directly the procedure for formation of parliamentary groups, therefore, the Seimas, while establishing procedure for its activities, may establish the minimum number of members of parliamentary groups.

It is noted in the explanation that the Constitution does not provide for the Seimas opposition directly, i.e., it does not provide for the parliamentary opposition as a structure and institute of the constitutional level. It is also pointed out in the explanation that the impugned norms of Article 23, Paragraph 2 of Article 38, Article 41, Paragraph 2 of Article 152, Paragraph 4 of Article 155, Paragraph 5 of Article 156, Paragraph 4 of Article 180, Paragraph 4 of Article 208 and Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with the Constitution.

III

1. At the Constitutional Court hearing, the representative of the petitioner J. Bernatonis reiterated the arguments set down in the petition and presented additional arguments upon which the alleged non-compliance of the impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution is based.

In the opinion of the representative of the petitioner, the norms of Articles 23 and 231 of the Statute of the Seimas evidently limits the right of a free decision of the Seimas, because the Seimas may adopt only one of two possible decisions, however, it is impossible for the Seimas not to adopt any of these decisions. The representative of the petitioner maintains that the other impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas are linked with the limitation on the rights of Seimas members which were in effect earlier. The restriction on the rights of representatives of the Nation and extension of the powers of the Speaker of the Seimas in the area of Seimas procedures conflict with the Constitution. In the opinion of the representative of the petitioner, the provision of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas that a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members limits the rights of Seimas members. By the norm of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas concerning the opposition leader, the rights of parliamentary groups established in the Statute of the Seimas are obviously violated. The norms of Articles 152, 155 and 156 of the Statute of the Seimas restricted the right of Seimas members which had been in effect earlier to submit proposals and amendments in the course of deliberation and adoption of a draft. J. Bernatonis noted that the impugned norms of Article 208 of the Statue of the Seimas grant exceptional powers to the person presiding over the sitting, which conflict with the norms and spirit of the Constitution and the essence of democracy.

2. At the Constitutional Court hearing, the representative of the party concerned O. Buišienė explained that Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas regulates issues of procedure for revocation of personal inviolability of a Seimas member but not those of revocation of the mandate of a Seimas member. The mandate is revoked according to impeachment procedure. The Constitution does not regulate decisions on possible preliminary actions of the procedure for impeachment proceedings, while the procedure of arrest of persons is established in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Therefore, the norm regarding the arrest of the Seimas member in the House of the Seimas is in compliance with the Constitution.

According to O. Buišienė, the norms of Articles 26 and 38 of the Statute of the Seimas establish the procedure of formation of parliamentary groups. Seimas members join into parliamentary groups of their own free will, while the Statute of the Seimas, by establishing the minimum number of their members, does not differentiate the rights of parliamentary groups.

In the opinion of the representative of the party concerned, the norms of the Constitution does not define the status of the opposition leader, while the procedure of election of Seimas authority is not applied to this official.

O. Buišienė maintains that in order to implement the legislative initiative of Seimas members which is established in Article 68 of the Constitution the phase of law-making is necessary. During the phase of deliberation and adoption of a draft law at the Seimas sittings, the Seimas members may submit their amendments under procedure established in Paragraph 1 of Article 152, Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas. The fact that Seimas members propose amendments is not expression of the legislative initiative but a mere issue of improvement of a draft law.

According to the representative of the party concerned, Article 208 of the Constitution provides for the implementation form of one of Seimas functions, i.e. the parliamentary control over the Government, which is carried out at the Seimas sitting during the Government hour when Seimas members pose oral questions to members of the Government. This is not assessment of the activity of members of the Government. Therefore, in an attempt to ensure proper work of the Seimas, the person presiding over the sitting may cut short the question which is similar either to a statement or a declaration of one’s opinion. In the opinion of the representative of the party concerned, Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

1. On 22 December 1998, the Seimas set forth the Statute of the Seimas in its new wording by the Statute of the Seimas “On the Amendment of the Statute”.

The petitioner—a group of Seimas members—is of the opinion that individual provisions of certain articles of the Statute of the Seimas limit the rights of Seimas members established in the Constitution, therefore, they conflict with the Constitution. The petitioner requests the Constitutional Court to investigate whether the impugned norms of Articles 23, 38, 41, 152, 155, 156, 180, 208, 231, and 259 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with the Constitution.

2. By its decision of 13 April 1999, the Constitutional Court joined the petition of the petitioner—a group of Seimas members—requesting an investigation into the compliance of Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution and the Seimas petition of 16 March 1999 requesting an investigation into the compliance of Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution into one case. The Constitutional Court investigated the case and on 11 May 1999 passed the ruling wherein it recognised that Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas to the extent that the right of the convicted person to take part in the impeachment proceedings as the impeached subject and his right to defence are limited contradicted Article 74 of the Constitution. In the case at issue the Constitutional Court will not investigate whether Article 259 of the Statute of the Seimas is in conformity with the Constitution.

3. The petitioner—a group of Seimas members—requests the Constitutional Court to investigate whether Paragraph 4 of Article 180 of the Statute of the Seimas of 22 December 1998, wherein it is established that the committees, parliamentary groups and individual Seimas members, in accordance with the conditions provided in Article 174 of Chapter 27 of the Statute of the Seimas, may submit a draft law on amendment of certain budgetary expenditures, is in compliance with the provisions of Articles 130 and 132 of the Constitution which provide that the Government shall prepare a draft budget of the state, and shall submit it to the Seimas, and that the budget shall be changed according to the same procedure by which it was drafted, adopted and approved.

On 10 October 2000, by the Statute of the Seimas “On the Amendment of Articles 24, 25, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 35, 44, 48, 54, 55, 77, 79, 81, 83, 88, 89, 90, 93, 115, 119, 121, 126, 127, 130, 136, 138, 139, 155, 172, 180, 187, 188, 206, 209, 214, 219, 225 and Change of the Titles of Chapters 6 and 30 of the Statute of the Seimas”, the Seimas amended and supplemented Article 180 of the Statute of the Seimas and set it down as follows:

1. The Seimas may amend the State Budget during the budget year. It shall be changed according to the same procedure by which it was drafted, adopted and approved. When the State Budget is amended, it is permitted not to follow the terms provided for in Paragraphs 1 and 4 of Article 172, Paragraph 1 of Article 173, Paragraph 1 of Article 176, Paragraphs 1 and 5 of Article 177 and Paragraph 1 of Article 179 of this Chapter.

2. When a draft amendment of the State Budget is being deliberated in Seimas committees and parliamentary groups, regular plenary sittings of the Seimas may be held.

3. If necessary, the Seimas may approve an additional budget.

4. In case of need of finances which may not be allocated from the Government Reserve Fund, the Government shall submit to the Seimas a draft law on the amendment of the Law on the State Budget. In the draft law, the purpose and size as well as the source of the needed finances shall be indicated.

5. The Law on the Amendment of the Law on the State Budget shall be adopted by majority vote of the Seimas members participating in the sitting in case the Government is not against it.

6. Otherwise, the law shall be adopted by majority vote of all Seimas members.”

Thus, the norm of Article 180 of the Statute of the Seimas impugned by the petitioner wherein it was established that the committees, parliamentary groups and individual Seimas members, in accordance with the conditions provided in Article 174 of Chapter 27 of the Statute of the Seimas, may submit a draft law on amendment of certain budgetary expenditures became null and void. The Statute of the Seimas in its current wording does not contain any norm of the same content. Pursuant to Paragraph 4 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the annulment of a disputable legal act shall be grounds to adopt a decision to dismiss the initiated legal proceedings.

4. The petitioner—a group of Seimas members—requests the Constitutional Court to investigate whether Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas is in conformity with Articles 8 and 62 of the Constitution on the grounds that the said article does not provide that, after the Seimas gives its consent for bringing the Seimas member to criminal liability, the said article does not provide that the Seimas member may not be arrested in the House of the Seimas.

As it may be seen from the content of the petition, the petitioner raises the question of the compliance of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas, reasoning that it does not contain the norm of Paragraph 4 of Article 24 of the Statute of the Seimas in its wording which was in force earlier, and which prohibited arresting a Seimas member in the House of the Seimas after the Seimas had given its consent for bringing the Seimas member to criminal liability.

Thus, the petitioner disputes the fact that Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas does not provide for certain legal regulation. Therefore, it needs to be held that in the case at issue the matter of investigation concerning this request is absent.

Under Article 102 of the Constitution and Paragraph 1 of Article 63 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court shall decide whether the laws and other legal acts adopted by the Seimas are in conformity with the Constitution and whether legal acts adopted by the President of the Republic and the Government are in conformity with the Constitution or laws.

Taking account of the arguments set forth and conforming to Item 2 of Paragraph 1 and Paragraph 3 of Article 69 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the case should be dismissed as regards the said issue.

5. Under Item 8 of Paragraph 1 of Article 66 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, petitions for the examination of the compliance of legal acts with the Constitution must contain the position of the petitioner and legal support of such position.

The Constitutional Court, taking account of the arguments set down in the petition of the petitioner, will investigate the compliance with the Constitution of:

1) the provision “a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas;

2) Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas;

3) Paragraph 5 of Article 152, the provision “only those draft amendments proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members” of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas;

4) Paragraph 4 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas;

5) Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and the provision of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas by which upon hearing the Prosecutor General’s report on a crime committed by a Seimas member, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to bring the concrete person to criminal liability according to the procedure provided for in the Statute of the Seimas or to initiate preliminary actions for impeachment proceedings in case there is a proposal from the entities listed in Paragraph 1 of Article 230 of the Statute of the Seimas.

II

While reasoning that the rights of Seimas members established in the Constitution are restricted, the petitioner—a group of Seimas members—disputes the compliance of respective provisions of Articles 23, 38, 41, 152, 155, 156, 208, 231 of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution.

Article 76 of the Constitution provides that the structure and procedure of activities of the Seimas shall be determined by the Statute of the Seimas. This constitutional provision grants the right to the Seimas to determine its structure and procedure of activities by legal act having the power of law. Thus, the Constitution establishes the discretion of the Seimas in this area. Alongside, it needs to be noted that the Seimas, establishing its structure and procedure of activities, may not violate the principles and norms of the Constitution, nor the status of a Seimas member established in the Constitution.

III

On the compliance of the provision “a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

1. Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “A parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members. A member of the Seimas may be a member of one parliamentary group only.”

In the opinion of the petitioner, the provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas that a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members imposes a limitation on the opportunities for a Seimas member to implement the right of a free mandate which is defined in Article 59 of the Constitution.

The petitioner notes that the Statute of the Seimas in its previously valid wording prescribed that a parliamentary group shall consist of at least three Seimas members. The petitioner is of the opinion that the increase of the number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group limits the opportunities for a Seimas member to implement the right of a free mandate.

2. Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution provides that while in office, Seimas members shall act in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, and may not be restricted by any mandates.

Interpreting Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, in its ruling of 26 November 1993, the Constitutional Court held that the Constitution establishes a free mandate of a Seimas member and does not recognise any imperative mandate. The essence of a free mandate lies in the freedom of a representative of the Nation to implement the rights and duties vested in him without restricting this freedom by any mandates, political requirements of parties and organisations that nominated them, and without recognising the right to recall a Seimas member. Under the Constitution, every Seimas member is a representative of the entire Nation. All Seimas members are equal, they must have equal opportunities to take part in activities of the Seimas. Otherwise, a Seimas member would not be able to represent the Nation in the Seimas nor to express the interests of the Nation. The principles of a free mandate of a Seimas member and the equality of Seimas members must be followed in the course of formation of the internal structure of the Seimas. A free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in the Constitution is one of guarantees of the independence of activities and equality of Seimas members.

3. Under the Statute of the Seimas, Seimas members join parliamentary groups of their own free will without being restricted by any mandates. Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas establishes the minimum number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group (not less than seven Seimas members), as well as the principle that a member of the Seimas may be a member of one parliamentary group only.

As mentioned before, under Article 76 of the Constitution, the structure and procedure of activities of the Seimas shall be determined by the Statute of the Seimas, which shall have the power of law. As parliamentary groups are structural units of the Seimas, the procedure of their formation, the rights and duties of parliamentary groups are established by the Seimas in its statute. Establishing the procedure of formation of parliamentary groups, as well as their rights and duties, the Seimas may not violate the principles and norms of the Constitution, nor a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in the Constitution.

4. Under the Constitution, while in office, Seimas members shall act in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, and may not be restricted by any mandates (Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution). Parliamentary groups—Seimas structural units of political nature—also help Seimas members to form and express their will as representatives of the Nation. Legal regulation of formation of parliamentary groups is at the discretion of the Seimas within the limits of the Constitution.

It was held in the Constitutional Court ruling of 26 November 1993 that, in determining the procedure of the formation of parliamentary groups, the total number of deputies, the nature of rights and duties of parliamentary groups established in the statute, the necessity to guarantee equal possibilities for all to express views and political goals, the principle of the minority’s protection, minimum requirements for protection of parliamentary opposition, should be taken into consideration. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court noted in the said ruling that it is important to take account of the number of members of parliamentary political groups in cases of forming the governing body of the parliament, when committees are set up and their heads are appointed, means are distributed, and other parliamentary functions are exercised. However, when applying the said criteria, the principle of a free mandate of a parliament member may not be violated. Thus, in the course of the establishment of the number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group and the other conditions necessary for formation and activities of parliamentary groups, it is important that such legal regulation would not violate the aforementioned requirements.

5. While deciding whether the impugned provision “a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, it needs to be noted that in itself establishment of the minimum number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group does not hinder Seimas members to act in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, and be not restricted by any mandates. The impugned provision does not establish any limitations due to which a Seimas member, either alone or together with other Seimas members, would not be able to implement his rights and fulfil his duties set down in the Constitution.

In the course of establishment or change of the already established minimum number of Seimas members who may form a parliamentary group there should not be evident disproportion between the minimum number and the total number of Seimas members. Comparing the minimum number of members of a parliamentary group with the total number of Seimas members (under Article 55 of the Constitution, the Seimas shall consist of representatives of the Nation—141 Seimas members), one has no grounds to assert that such disproportion has been consolidated by the impugned legal regulation. Thus, by means of the established legal regulation the right of Seimas members to form parliamentary groups is not infringed, nor are Seimas members hindered to act, while in office, in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, nor are they restricted by any mandates.

Taking account of the arguments set forth, it should be concluded that the provision “a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

IV

On the compliance of Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas with Article 1 and Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

1. Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “If an opposition parliamentary group or their coalition has more than half of the Seimas minority members, the head of such a parliamentary group or their coalition shall be referred to as the Seimas Opposition Leader. The Opposition Leader shall be entitled to additional rights of the Opposition Leader as provided in this Statute.”

2. The petitioner doubts whether the provision “if an opposition parliamentary group or their coalition has more than half of the Seimas minority members, the head of such a parliamentary group or their coalition shall be referred to as the Seimas Opposition Leader” of Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Article 1 and Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution. The petitioner points out that the Statute of the Seimas in its previously valid wording prescribed that one of the heads of parliamentary groups forming an opposition coalition might be elected leader of the opposition coalition. The impugned Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas contains an additional precondition: the opposition parliamentary group or their coalition must have more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority so that its head could be referred to as the opposition leader. Thereby the right of the opposition is also abolished to elect its leader. Such amendments of the Statute of the Seimas, according to the petitioner, conflict with the principle of natural formation and consolidation of the opposition, which has become an established principle in traditional democracies.

3. The recognition of parliamentary opposition is a necessary element of pluralistic democracy. The Statute of the Seimas must establish guarantees for opposition activities.

While deciding whether the provision of Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in conformity with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, one should elucidate the legal situation of the opposition leader established in the Statute of the Seimas. Under Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas, the head of a biggest opposition parliamentary unit (opposition parliamentary group or their coalition) which has more than half of the Seimas minority members is referred to as the opposition leader. The opposition leader, as mentioned before, is entitled to additional rights of the opposition leader as provided in the Statute of the Seimas.

It is provided in the Statute of the Seimas that the Seimas opposition leader shall be a member of the Board of the Seimas (Paragraph 2 of Article 27 of the Statue of the Seimas), he may take the floor once out of his turn during the discussion (Paragraph 4 of Article 108 of the Statute of the Seimas), in the course of the deliberation on the Programme of the Government at the Seimas sitting, a report of the Seimas opposition leader shall be heard first (Paragraph 2 of Article 196 of the Statute of the Seimas), after the presentation of the Government’s annual report, in the specially arranged discussion of the Seimas, the Seimas opposition leader and representatives of opposition parliamentary groups shall speak first (Paragraph 3 of Article 207 of the Statute of the Seimas), at the time when members of the Government are responding to questions, the first two questions may be presented by the Seimas opposition leader (Paragraph 5 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas). At the time when heads of state institutions are responding to questions, the first two questions may be presented by the Seimas opposition leader and heads of opposition parliamentary groups (Paragraph 6 of Article 209 of the Statute of the Seimas). For the work performed by the opposition leader, he shall be paid additional salary the size of which shall be established by law (Paragraph 3 of Article 15 of the Statute of the Seimas).

Alongside, the Seimas opposition leader, as a member of the Seimas Board, may not be chairperson or deputy chairperson of any committee (Paragraph 5 of Article 46 of the Statute of the Seimas), he may not be chairperson or deputy chairperson of permanent commission or a commission whose term of powers exceeds one year (Paragraph 1 of Article 74 of the Statute of the Seimas), he may not be appointed to a ballot counting group (Paragraph 5 of Article 119 of the Statute of the Seimas) etc.

4. Taking account of the legal situation of the Seimas opposition leader established in the Statute of the Seimas, it is possible to assert that in the Statute of the Seimas this legal institute is linked with representation of the group of Seimas minority having more than half of its members. Under the Statute of the Seimas, the head of an opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups shall be referred to as the opposition leader, if the opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups has more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority. It needs to be noted that the opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups, which has more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority, itself freely elects head of the parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups, who, under Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas, is referred to as the Seimas opposition leader. Such a procedure of opposition leader’s recognition is in conformity with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member established in the Constitution, it does not hinder Seimas members to act, while in office, in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the State, as well as their own consciences, and be not restricted by any mandates.

The Statute of the Seimas does not establish any rights of the opposition leader which might entitle him to act as the head of all Seimas opposition parliamentary groups or as the head of the entire Seimas minority, i.e. to act in the name of the Seimas members who have not empowered him to act so. The fact that he may make use of the aforementioned rights established in the Statute of the Seimas, does not mean that other opposition parliamentary groups, their coalitions or other Seimas members lose their rights to make use of their rights provided for in the Statute of the Seimas.

Taking account of the content of the legal institute of the Seimas opposition leader, it is impossible to maintain that the legal regulation consolidated in the impugned norms of Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas bars the way to Seimas members to act, while in office, in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the State, as well as their own consciences, and be not restricted by any mandates. Therefore, Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

5. The Constitutional Court notes that the notion “Seimas Opposition Leader” employed in Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is not in line with the legal status of the Seimas opposition leader established in the Statute of the Seimas. Under the Statute of the Seimas, the head of an opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups shall be referred to as the opposition leader, if the opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups has more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority; he enjoys additional rights provided for in the Statute of the Seimas. This legal institute, under the procedure of opposition leader’s recognition, is in conformity with the Constitution, however, the title of this institute “Seimas Opposition Leader” is ambiguous, as, if this notion is construed in a linguistic manner only, it might be possible to assume that the Seimas opposition leader represents all Seimas opposition parliamentary groups or the entire Seimas minority. According to the legal situation established in the Statute of the Seimas, he is the head or representative of the opposition parliamentary group or coalition of opposition parliamentary groups which has more than half of the Seimas members belonging to the Seimas minority. The rights granted to him do not limit the rights of other Seimas members, it does not hinder them to implement a free mandate of a Seimas member which is established in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, nor does it deny an opportunity for other Seimas parliamentary groups to be opposition parliamentary groups.

In its ruling of 10 February 2000, the Constitutional Court noted that in all cases legal regulation must be clear and it must not lead to ambiguities, therefore, in legal acts concepts must be employed clearly and according to their real meaning. In the context of the relations regulated in the Statute of the Seimas the notion “Seimas Opposition Leader” is imprecise. However, the aforesaid deficiency of the notion “Seimas Opposition Leader” is not a sufficient ground to recognise that the legal regulation established in Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas conflicts with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court notes that the requirements of legal clarity and legal certainty pre-suppose a duty of the Seimas to define more accurately the notion “Seimas Opposition Leader” employed in Paragraph 4 of Article 41 and other articles of the Statute of the Seimas so that this notion would be in line with the actual legal situation.

6. Article 1 of the Constitution provides: “The State of Lithuania shall be an independent and democratic republic.”

In its rulings of 23 February 2000 and 18 October 2000, the Constitutional Court noted that in this article of the Constitution the fundamental principles of the Lithuanian State are established: Lithuania is an independent state; republic is the form of governance of the Lithuanian State; the state authority must be organised in a democratic way, and there must be a democratic political regime in this country. The provisions of Article 1 of the Constitution, as well as the principle of a state under the rule of law established in the Constitution, determine the main principles of organisation and activities of the state authority of the Lithuanian State.

As mentioned before, the regulation established in Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member established in the Constitution.

While analysing whether the institute of the Seimas opposition leader is in conformity with the democratic principles of organisation and activities of the authority of the State of Lithuania which are established in Article 1 of the Constitution, it should be noted that by this institute additional guarantees are established for the opposition parliamentary group or their coalition which has more than half of the members belonging to the Seimas minority to take part in activities of the Seimas. Such legal regulation is in compliance with the provision of Article 1 of the Constitution that the State of Lithuania shall be an independent and democratic republic.

Taking account of the arguments set forth, it should be concluded that Paragraph 5 of Article 41 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Article 1 of the Constitution.

V

On the compliance of Paragraph 5 of Article 152, the provision “only the draft amendments, supplements and expunctions proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which, after their announcement by the person presiding over the sitting, are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members” of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 and Paragraph 1 of Article 68 of the Constitution.

1. Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “Amendments and supplements presented under procedure established in Paragraph 1 of this Article shall not be submitted for consideration by the person presiding over the sitting in case they are supported by less than 10 Seimas members.”

Paragraph 4 of Article 155 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “Only the draft amendments, supplements and expunctions proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which, after their announcement by the person presiding over the sitting, are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members. The persons enjoying the right of legislative initiative must submit all proposed amendments, supplements or expunctions concerning the draft law to the Secretariat of the sitting no later than 24 hours prior to the time of commencement of the procedure of the adoption of the law, which is provided in the agenda of the sitting.”

Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “New amendments, supplements and expunctions presented under procedure established in Paragraph 4 of Article 155 shall not be submitted for consideration by the person presiding over the sitting in case they are supported by less than 1/5 of the Seimas members.”

2. In the opinion of the petitioner, Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas establishing that in the course of the consideration of a draft at Seimas sittings, the person presiding over the sitting does not put to the vote the amendments and supplements proposed by Seimas members in case they are supported by less than 10 members of the Seimas, limits the right of legislative initiative of Seimas members, which is established in Article 68 of the Constitution, and conflicts with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member (Article 59 of the Constitution).

The petitioner maintains that this right is even more limited by the provisions of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas, under which only the amendments proposed by a Seimas member are put to the vote which are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members. Under the impugned provisions, the Seimas members belonging to the majority are placed in an advantageous situation, meanwhile, in fact, proposals of members of small parliamentary groups (including the opposition) cannot be implemented. Thus, the principle of the equality of Seimas members is violated.

3. Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution provides that, in office, Seimas members shall act in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, and may not be restricted by any mandates.

Article 68 of the Constitution provides that the right of legislative initiative in the Seimas shall belong to the members of the Seimas, the President of the Republic, and the Government. Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania shall also have the right of legislative initiative. A draft law may be submitted to the Seimas by 50,000 citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have the right to vote, while the Seimas must consider this draft law.

Implementation of the right of legislative initiative is the first phase of legislation procedure. As mentioned before, Article 68 of the Constitution provides for entities to whom belongs the right of legislative initiative: Seimas members, the President of the Republic, the Government, 50,000 citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have the right to vote. In its ruling of 8 November 1993, the Constitutional Court held that the essence and purpose of the right of legislative initiative is to initiate the process of legislation. In practice, this right is implemented by submission of some concrete draft law to the parliament. After an entity that is pointed out in the Constitution submits a draft law, the legislative institution—the Seimas—is obligated to begin its consideration.

4. The norm of Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas, by which amendments and supplements presented under procedure established in Paragraph 1 of this Article shall not be submitted for consideration by the person presiding over the sitting in case they are supported by less than 10 Seimas members, regulates relations of consideration of draft laws in Seimas sittings. According to the petitioner, establishment of such requirements conflicts with the right of legislative initiative of Seimas members which is entrenched in the Constitution and the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member.

While considering whether Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with the right of legislative initiative that is entrenched in Paragraph 1 of Article 68 of the Constitution, one should take account of the fact that the relations of consideration of draft laws are regulated through the impugned norm, i.e. the relations which occur after the right of legislative initiative has been implemented. In its ruling of 8 November 1993, the Constitutional Court noted: “In this phase, remarks, proposals, amendments and supplements on the draft law submitted by the members of the Seimas are relevant elements of the phase of consideration, however, they cannot be interpreted as legislative initiative because it has already been implemented. In practice, proposals, amendments and supplements are submitted up to the moment of law enactment. The procedure of their submission and consideration is regulated by regulation norms of the consideration of draft laws. It is peculiar that the procedure differs in essence from implementation of the right of legislative initiative. The right of legislative initiative is also different from the submission of amendments and supplements to the draft under consideration in its purpose and, after all, they are different parts of the phases of the process of legislation.”

Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas does not regulate relations of implementation of legislative initiative, therefore, there are no legal grounds to assert that the said paragraph infringes the right of legislative initiative of Seimas members which is entrenched in Article 68 of the Constitution.

Under Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas, further destiny of the amendments and supplements proposed by Seimas members in the phase of consideration of a draft law is linked with support of certain number of Seimas member. Deciding whether this legal regulation is in conformity with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, one should note that the impugned norm does not deny the right of a Seimas member to participate in consideration of draft laws and propose his amendments or supplements. The impugned provisions of Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas, while regulating relations of procedure of Seimas activities, provide for the requirements under which amendments and supplements to draft laws are discussed. Such requirements do not restrict the right of Seimas members of a free decision, nor do they hinder Seimas members, when they are in office, from acting in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences, nor from being restricted by any mandates. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the provisions of Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas under which further consideration of the amendments and supplements and voting thereon are linked with support of not less than 10 Seimas members as conflicting with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

5. Relations of adoption of draft laws in Seimas sittings are regulated by the provision “only the draft amendments, supplements and expunctions proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which, after their announcement by the person presiding over the sitting, are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members” of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas.

While account is taken of the arguments set forth in the course of the assessment of the compliance of Paragraph 5 of Article 152 of the Statute of the Seimas with Paragraph 1 of Article 68 and Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, it is impossible to consider the impugned provision of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas to have established legal regulation conflicting with the right of legislative initiative of a Seimas member provided for in Paragraph 1 of Article 68 of the Constitution and the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member consolidated in Article 59 of the Constitution.

6. On the grounds of the arguments set forth, it should be concluded that Paragraph 5 of Article 152, the provision “only the draft amendments, supplements and expunctions proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which, after their announcement by the person presiding over the sitting, are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members” of Paragraph 4 of Article 155 and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 and Paragraph 1 of Article 68 of the Constitution.

VI

On the compliance of Paragraph 4 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas with Paragraph 4 of Article 59, Paragraph 1 of Article 61 and Item 9 of Article 67 of the Constitution.

1. Paragraph 4 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “The person presiding over the Seimas sitting may cut short any question posed by a Seimas member to a member of the Government if, in the opinion of the person presiding over the sitting, this question resembles a statement of the Seimas member or a declaration of his opinion.”

Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “Decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable, however, the Seimas member, who is not satisfied with the answer of a minister, or whose question was considered not urgent or not having social importance by the person presiding over the sitting, may, after the Government hour, state that he will pose his question as a written question.”

2. In the opinion of the petitioner, the opportunity provided for in Paragraph 4 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas for the person presiding over the Seimas sitting to cut short any question of a Seimas member posed to a member of the Government if, in the opinion of the person presiding over the sitting, this question resembles a statement of the Seimas member or a declaration of his opinion, and, if this opportunity is linked with the provision of Paragraph 11 of the same article by which decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable, limits the rights of Seimas members and conflicts with the provisions of Articles 59, 61 and 67 of the Constitution. Taking into consideration the arguments set forth in the petition, the Constitutional Court will investigate whether the impugned provisions of the Statute of the Seimas are in conformity with Paragraph 4 of Article 59, Paragraph 1 of Article 61 and Item 9 of Article 67 of the Constitution

3. Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution establishes the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member, which ensures a representative of the Nation to unrestrictedly implement the rights and fulfil duties granted to him by the Constitution and laws.

Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Constitution provides that Seimas members shall have the right to submit inquiries to the Prime Minister, the individual Ministers, and the heads of other State institutions formed or elected by the Seimas. Said persons or bodies must respond orally or in writing at the Seimas session in the manner established by the Seimas.

Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Constitution is linked with Article 67 of the Constitution in which the competence of the Seimas is consolidated. Item 9 of Article 67 of the Constitution provides that the Seimas shall supervise the activities of the Government, and may express non-confidence in the Prime Minister or individual ministers.

4. Under Article 76 of the Constitution, the structure and procedure of activities of the Seimas shall be determined by the Statute of the Seimas. Thus, the Seimas is empowered to establish the procedure of responding by members of the Government to posed questions and the rights of the person presiding over the Seimas sitting during the Government hour. However, implementing these powers, the Seimas may not establish in the Statute of the Seimas such a procedure of responding by members of the Government to posed questions nor such rights of the person presiding over the sitting, which might violate principles and norms of the Constitution, as well as the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in the Constitution.

5. Paragraph 1 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that during a session of the Seimas, at the beginning of each Thursday evening sitting of the Seimas during the Government hour, members of the Government shall for the duration of 60 minutes answer questions given orally by Seimas members. The Seimas sitting in which members of the Government answer questions given by Seimas members shall be presided by the person presiding over the sitting who is either the Speaker of the Seimas of a Deputy Speaker of the Seimas. Under Article 100 of the Statute of the Seimas, the person presiding over the Seimas sitting announces the opening and closing of a sitting, takes care of the working procedure of the sitting, grants the floor to the Seimas members, directs the discussions, watches over the duration of speeches, formulates questions to be put to the vote, etc.

6. Under Paragraph 4 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas, the person presiding over the Seimas sitting may cut short any question posed by a Seimas member to a member of the Government if, in the opinion of the person presiding over the sitting, this question resembles a statement of the Seimas member or a declaration of his opinion. Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable.

While analysing the compliance of these norms of the Statute of the Seimas with the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, it should be noted that under Paragraph 1 of Article 66 of the Constitution, the Speaker or Deputy Speaker of the Seimas shall preside over sittings of the Seimas. The duty of the person presiding over Seimas sittings is to preside over Seimas sittings and to ensure that the procedure of Seimas activities would be adhered to. He may not, while making use of the rights of the person presiding over the Seimas sitting, exert influence on Seimas members regarding decisions which must be adopted, nor restrict the rights of Seimas members, nor control the content of their statements. Otherwise the essence of the Seimas as a representative institution and the principle of a free mandate of a Seimas member entrenched in the Constitution, ensuring the equality of Seimas members and their opportunity to freely express their will, would be denied.

Under Paragraph 4 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas, the person presiding over the Seimas sitting may cut short any question if, in the opinion of the person presiding over the sitting, this question resembles a statement of the Seimas member or a declaration of his opinion. Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that his decisions shall be indisputable. While analysing the impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas, it should be noted, first of all, that such legal regulation means that the person presiding over the Seimas sitting is granted the right to assess the content of the question of the Seimas member. Secondly, the criterion established in the Statute of the Seimas, permitting one to limit the right of a Seimas member to pose a question to a member of the Government, is a subjective one—it is an assumption of the person presiding over the Seimas sitting that the question is similar to a statement of the Seimas member or expression of his opinion. Thirdly, under the impugned legal regulation such a decision of the person presiding over the sitting to cut short the question of the Seimas member is indisputable.

The right of the person presiding over the sitting to cut short a question of the Seimas member, in case the question, under assumption of the person presiding over the sitting, is similar to a statement of the Seimas member or expression of his opinion, creates the preconditions for restricting the implementation of the rights of Seimas members. Due to such indisputability of the decision of the person presiding over the sitting, the implementation of the right of the Seimas member depends only on the point of view of the person presiding over the sitting. Not only the implementation of a free mandate of a Seimas member can be restricted by such regulation but also the equality of Seimas members as representatives of the Nation could be denied.

Taking account of the arguments set forth, it should be concluded that Paragraph 4 of Article 208 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas conflict with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

7. Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Constitution provides for the right of Seimas members to submit inquiries. The Prime Minister, the individual Ministers, and the heads of other State institutions formed or elected by the Seimas must respond orally or in writing at the Seimas session in the manner established by the Seimas.

The inquiry by a Seimas member, as a constitutional institute, presupposes the fact that the Statute of the Seimas must establish a duty of respective officials to respond to the Seimas member, and that it must be responded at the Seimas session in the manner established by the Seimas. Submission of inquiries and procedure of their consideration are regulated in Chapter 34 of the Statute of the Seimas. It is provided therein that a Seimas member or group of Seimas members shall address in writing a member of the Government or another head of Government institution, who is appointed by the Seimas or for the appointment of whom the consent of the Seimas is necessary, save the courts, demanding information on his activities and adopted decisions. Under the Statute of the Seimas, only such a question is regarded as an inquiry which has been posed to state institutions by a Seimas member or group of Seimas members but which, however, in their opinion, has not been properly considered or which has been decided in the negative. The Statute of the Seimas regulates submission of inquiries, responses to inquiries and consideration of inquiries at Seimas sittings.

Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas establishes the procedure of responding by members of the Government to questions during the Government hour. The impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas do not regulate directly relations of implementation of the right of inquiry of Seimas members. As the impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas regulate different relations from those regulated in Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Constitution, then Paragraph 4 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Constitution. The different character of relations regulated in the Constitution and the Statute of the Seimas also permits asserting that Paragraph 4 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas are in compliance with Item 9 of Article 67 of the Constitution as well.

VII

On the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 62, Article 74 and Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

1. Paragraph 1 of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas provides:

After the Seimas has heard the report of the Prosecutor General concerning the crime committed by a Seimas member, an interval of not less than one hour but not more than two hours shall be announced at the Seimas sitting. After the interval, the Seimas shall adopt one of the two decisions:

1) to form an investigation commission for the consent to bring the Seimas member to criminal liability;

2) to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings—such a decision is considered and adopted only in cases when there is a proposal from entities pointed out in Paragraph 1 of Article 230 of this Statute.”

Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas provides: “Upon hearing the Prosecutor General’s report on a crime committed by other persons, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to bring the concrete person to criminal liability (according to the procedure provided for in this Statute) or to initiate preliminary impeachment proceedings (in cases when there is a proposal from entities pointed out in Paragraph 1 of Article 230 of this Statute). In case the Seimas decides to give its consent to bring the said persons to criminal liability, neither preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings nor the procedure for impeachment proceedings in the Seimas may be initiated as regards the same accusation until the issue of criminal liability is decided, i.e. until the court adopts a judgment of acquittal, or an effective judgment of conviction, or until it dismisses the case.”

2. In the opinion of the petitioner, the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas, by which after the Seimas has heard the report of the Prosecutor General concerning the crime committed by a Seimas member, it shall adopt one of the two decisions: to form an investigation commission for the consent to bring the Seimas member to criminal liability or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings, limits the right of a free decision of the Seimas, conflicts with the provisions of Articles 62 and 74 of the Constitution and limits the constitutional right and duty of Seimas members consolidated in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution that Seimas members must act in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as their own consciences.

The petitioner also maintains that the provision of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas, by which after the Seimas has heard the report of the Prosecutor General concerning the crime committed by a Seimas member, it shall adopt one of the said two decisions, conflicts with the provisions of Articles 62 and 74 of the Constitution.

3. Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 62 of the Constitution provides that the person of a Seimas member shall be inviolable and that Seimas members may not be brought to criminal liability, may not be arrested, and may not be subjected to any other restriction on personal freedom without the consent of the Seimas.

These provisions consolidate additional guarantees of personal inviolability of Seimas members, which are necessary for proper fulfilment of his duties as a representative of the Nation. The right to freedom and personal inviolability of a Seimas member during his term of office may be limited only upon the consent of the Seimas.

Under Article 74 of the Constitution, for gross violation of the Constitution, a breach of the oath, or upon the disclosure of the commission of crime by a Seimas member, the Seimas may, by three-fifths majority vote of all the Seimas members, revoke his mandate of Seimas member. Such actions shall be carried out in accordance with the procedure for impeachment proceedings which shall be established by the Statute of the Seimas.

In the legal system of Lithuania, impeachment of a Seimas member is a constitutional institute. In its ruling of 11 May 1999, the Constitutional Court held, inter alia, that the following elements of impeachment are established in Article 74 of the Constitution: (1) impeachment as a parliamentary procedure may be applied only to the President of the Republic, the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, as well as Seimas members; (2) impeachment proceedings may be instituted only for gross violations of the Constitution, a breach of the oath or upon the disclosure of the commission of crime; (3) the objective of impeachment proceedings is to decide the question of the constitutional liability of the said persons; (4) impeachment is carried out by the Seimas; (5) to revoke the mandate of a Seimas member, not less than three-fifths majority vote of all the Seimas members is necessary. Under Article 74 of the Constitution, establishment of the procedure for impeachment proceedings is also within the competence of the Seimas: the latter must define it in the Statute of the Seimas. By establishing the procedure for impeachment proceedings, the Seimas may not violate principles and norms of the Constitution.

4. While investigating the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and of the impugned norm of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas with Article 74 of the Constitution, it should be noted that, under Article 74 of the Constitution, one of the bases for impeachment is “upon the disclosure of the commission of crime”. The formula “upon the disclosure of the commission of crime” employed in Article 74 of the Constitution presumes the fact that not only the fact of commission of crime must be established but also the official who has committed the crime. Article 229 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that the official against whom impeachment may be applied may be brought to constitutional liability in accordance with impeachment procedure in case he is “suspected of commission of crime”. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas, upon establishing that the person is suspected of having committed a crime, the Prosecutor General shall immediately inform the Seimas thereon and submit appropriate material thereto. Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas provides that “upon hearing the Prosecutor General’s report on a crime committed by other persons, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to bring the concrete person to criminal liability <…> or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings <…>. In case the Seimas decides to give its consent to bring the said persons to criminal liability, neither preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings nor the procedure for impeachment proceedings in the Seimas may be initiated as regards the same accusation until the issue of criminal liability is decided.” Thus, the conclusion should be drawn that a provision has been consolidated in the procedure of impeachment for commission of crime established in the Statute of the Seimas that commission of crime and culpability of the person may be found out in two ways: (1) by carrying out full impeachment procedure at the Seimas itself; such a procedure is finished by voting on the removal of the person from office or revocation of his mandate provided the Seimas confirms the conclusion of the special investigation commission; (2) by entrusting the establishment of the actual circumstances of the case to interrogative bodies and the court, however, by leaving an opportunity for the Seimas to decide the question of removal of the person from office or that of revocation of his mandate of Seimas member.

In its ruling of 11 May 1999, the Constitutional Court held that a formal statement of the charge as presented by Seimas members themselves is not the only form possible for initiating impeachment proceedings. Giving its consent to bring the person to criminal liability, the Seimas also decides that the actual circumstances of the case will be investigated by judicial institutions—the interrogation and the court—but not by any special commission formed by the Seimas. This means that in case the court recognises that the person is guilty of the commission of crime, later one will not have to submit a special proposal to institute impeachment because of the commission of crime. Such treatment of impeachment is in line with the bases for impeachment consolidated in the Constitution.

While these arguments are taken into consideration, it is possible to assert that, by Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and the impugned norm of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas, the Seimas implemented its discretion in establishing differentiated impeachment proceedings. Such regulation is in line with the requirements for impeachment proceedings established in Article 76 of the Constitution.

5. As mentioned before, a decision either to form an investigation commission for the consent to bring the Seimas member to criminal liability or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings is adopted by the Seimas, i.e. by Seimas members by voting. Therefore, it is impossible to assert that such regulation violates the provision of Article 62 of the Constitution that Seimas members may not be brought to criminal liability, may not be arrested, and may not be subjected to any other restriction on personal freedom without the consent of the Seimas. The impugned norms of the Statute of the Seimas do not violate the bases of constitutional status of a Seimas member entrenched in Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution, either. Under the impugned provisions of the Statute of the Seimas, a decision is adopted by Seimas members by voting, i.e. every Seimas member, in accordance with the Constitution, the interests of the state, as well as his own conscience, without restriction by any mandates, may decide on how he will vote.

Taking account of the aforementioned arguments, it should be concluded that Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and the impugned norm of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas that, upon hearing the Prosecutor General’s report on a crime committed by a Seimas member, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to bring the concrete person to criminal liability according to the procedure provided for in this Statute or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings in cases when there is a proposal from entities pointed out in Paragraph 1 of Article 230 of this Statute are in compliance with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 62, Article 74 and Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution.

Conforming to Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 53, 54, 55, 56 and Item 2 of Paragraph 1 and Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 69 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

ruling:

1. To recognise that the provision “a parliamentary group shall consist of at least seven Seimas members” of Paragraph 2 of Article 38, Paragraph 5 of Article 41, Paragraph 5 of Article 152, the provision “only the draft amendments, supplements and expunctions proposed by a Seimas member shall be put to the vote at the time of adoption of a draft law which, after their announcement by the person presiding over the sitting, are supported by not less than 1/5 of the Seimas members” of Paragraph 4 of Article 155, and Paragraph 5 of Article 156 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania are in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

2. To recognise that Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and the impugned norm of Paragraph 3 of Article 231 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania that, upon hearing the Prosecutor General’s report on a crime committed by a Seimas member, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to bring the concrete person to criminal liability according to the procedure provided for in the Statute of the Seimas or to initiate preliminary actions of impeachment proceedings in cases when there is a proposal from entities pointed out in Paragraph 1 of Article 230 of this Statute are in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

3. To recognise that Paragraph 4 of Article 208 and the provision “decisions made by the person presiding over the sitting during the Government hour shall be indisputable” of Paragraph 11 of Article 208 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania conflict with Paragraph 4 of Article 59 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

4. To dismiss the legal proceedings as regards the petition requesting an investigation into the compliance of Paragraph 4 of Article 180 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania with Articles 130 and 132 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

5. To dismiss the case as regards the petition whether the fact that Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania does not provide that, after the Seimas gives its consent for bringing the Seimas member to criminal liability, the Seimas member may not be arrested in the House of the Seimas, is in compliance with Articles 8 and 62 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

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

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

Justices of the Constitutional Court:

 

Egidijus Jarašiūnas     Egidijus Kūris      Zigmas Levickis

 

Augustinas Normantas      Vladas Pavilonis      Jonas Prapiestis

 

Vytautas Sinkevičius     Stasys Stačiokas      Teodora Staugaitienė