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On the spelling of the name and family name of an individual in the passport of the Republic of Lithuania

Case No. 14/98

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

DECISION

ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE PROVISIONS OF ITEMS 4 AND 7 OF THE REASONING PART OF THE RULING OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA OF 21 OCTOBER 1999

6 November 2009
Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Armanas Abramavičius, Toma Birmontienė, Pranas Kuconis, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zenonas Namavičius, Ramutė Ruškytė, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Raimondas Šukys, First Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas, which submitted the petition requesting the construction of the Ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 21 October 1999

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 29 October 2009, in a public hearing, considered the petition of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, requesting the construction of the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” of Item 4 and the provision “In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed” of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania “On the Compliance of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” of 21 October 1999 in the aspect whether after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, would it be possible to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so and when there are original documents issued in foreign states which confirm the identity of the individual and wherein the name and/or family name of the individual are written in a non-Lithuanian language.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

1. On 21 October 1999, in constitutional justice case No. 14/98 subsequent to the petition of the Vilnius Regional Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania “On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991 was in conformity with Articles 18, 22 29 and 37 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court adopted the Ruling “On the Compliance of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania ‘On Writing Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 31 January 1991 with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania” (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 2660-2662; hereinafter also referred to as the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999).

2. It was recognised in the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 that Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania “On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania” of 31 January 1991 was in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

3. The Seimas, the petitioner, requests that the Constitutional Court construe the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” of Item 4 and the provision “In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed” of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 in the aspect whether after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, would it be possible to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so and when there are original documents issued in foreign states which confirm the identity of the individual and wherein the name and/or family name of the individual are written in a non-Lithuanian language.

II

At the Constitutional Court’s hearing, Raimondas Šukys, First Deputy Speaker of the Seimas, the representative of the Seimas, the petitioner, explained the reasons which had prompted the Seimas to request the construction of some provisions of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 and answered the questions given by the justices of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

1. The powers of the Constitutional Court to officially construe its own rulings are entrenched in Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court has held in its acts more than once that it enjoys the powers to construe its other final acts as well.

2. Paragraph 1 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court provides that a ruling of the Constitutional Court may be officially construed by the Constitutional Court at the request of the parties to the case, of other institutions or persons to whom it was sent, or on its own initiative.

The Seimas was a party concerned in case No. 14/98 in which the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 was adopted.

Thus, the Seimas has the right to apply to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting the construction of a ruling of the Constitutional Court.

3. A decision concerning the construction of a ruling of the Constitutional Court shall be adopted at a sitting of the Constitutional Court as a separate document (Paragraph 2 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court).

4. In its acts, the Constitutional Court has held more than once that the purpose of the institute of the construction of rulings and other final acts of the Constitutional Court is to reveal the contents and meaning of the corresponding rulings or other final acts of the Constitutional Court more broadly and in more detail if it is necessary in order to ensure a proper execution of that ruling or other final act Constitutional Court so that the said ruling or other final act of the Constitutional Court would be followed.

5. The Constitutional Court has held more than once that a ruling of the Constitutional Court is integral, its operative part is based upon the arguments of the part of reasoning; while construing its ruling, the Constitutional Court is bound both by the content of the operative part and the part of reasoning of its ruling; the decision adopted concerning the construction of a ruling of the Constitutional Court is inseparable from that ruling of the Constitutional Court.

6. Under Paragraph 3 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court must construe its ruling without changing its content.

The Constitutional Court has held more than once that this provision of Paragraph 3 of Article 61 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, among other things, means that, while construing its ruling, the Constitutional Court cannot construe its content so that the meaning of its provisions, inter alia, the notional entirety of the elements constituting the content of the ruling, the arguments and reasons upon which that ruling of the Constitutional Court is based, is changed, also that the Constitutional Court may not construe what was not investigated in that constitutional justice case, subsequent to which the construed ruling was adopted, either. The Constitutional Court also held that the consideration of a petition requesting the construction of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court does not imply a new constitutional justice case.

In this context it needs to be noted that, as it has been held by the Constitutional Court more than once, the formula “shall be final and not subject to appeal” of Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, which provides that the decisions of the Constitutional Court on the issues within its competence according to the Constitution shall be final and not subject to appeal, also means that the rulings, conclusions and decisions of the Constitutional Court by which a constitutional justice case is finished, i.e. final acts of the Constitutional Court, are obligatory to all state institutions, courts, all enterprises, establishments and organisations, as well as officials and citizens, including the Constitutional Court itself: final acts of the Constitutional Court are obligatory to the Constitutional Court itself, they restrict the Constitutional Court in the aspect that it may not change them or review them if there are no constitutional grounds for that.

Therefore, in the official construction (subsequent to a petition of the persons that participated in the case, other institutions and individuals, to whom the ruling of the Constitutional Court was sent, also, on the initiative of the Constitutional Court itself) of rulings and other final acts of the Constitutional Court, the constitutional doctrine is not corrected. The correction of the official constitutional doctrine (which, undoubtedly, must always have a constitutional basis and be explicitly reasoned in a respective act of the Constitutional Court) should be related with the consideration of new constitutional justice cases and creation of new Constitutional Court precedents therein, but not with the official construction of provisions of rulings and other final acts of the Constitutional Court (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 1 February 2008, 4 July 2008, 15 January 2009, 15 May 2009, and 28 October 2009).

7. It should also be noted that the uniformity and continuity of the official constitutional doctrine implies a necessity to construe each construed provision of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court by taking account of the entire official constitutional doctrinal context, also of other provisions (explicit and implicit) of the Constitution, which are related with the provision (provisions) of the Constitution in the course of the construction of which in a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court the corresponding official constitutional doctrine was formulated. No official constitutional doctrinal provision of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court may be construed in isolation, by ignoring its meaning and systemic links with the other official constitutional doctrinal provisions set forth in that ruling or other final act of the Constitutional Court, in other acts of the Constitutional Court, as well as with other provisions (explicit and implicit) of the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 1 February 2008, 4 July 2008, 15 January 2009, 15 May 2009, and 28 October 2009).

II

1. As mentioned before, the Seimas, the petitioner, requests the construction of the aforesaid provisions of Items 4 and 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 in the aspect “whether after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, would it be possible to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so and when there are original documents issued in foreign states which confirm the identity of the individual and wherein the name and/or family name of the individual are written in a non-Lithuanian language”.

Thus, the Seimas, the petitioner, requests the construction of whether the aforesaid provisions of Items 4 and 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 also mean that after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport in the Republic of Lithuania, it is allowed:

to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form,

to specify this in the section for other entries of the same passport,

to specify this when the individual requests so and when there are original documents issued in foreign states which confirm the identity of the individual and wherein the name and/or family name of the individual are written in a non-Lithuanian language.

2. In this context it needs to be noted that, in its ruling of 21 October 1999, the Constitutional Court did not investigate the issue related to original documents issued in foreign states which confirm the identity of the individual and wherein the name and/or family name of the individual are written in non-Lithuanian characters.

3. As mentioned before, the Constitutional Court may not construe what was not investigated in that constitutional justice case, subsequent to which the construed ruling was adopted.

4. Thus, the petition of the Seimas, the petitioner, should be treated as the petition requesting the construction of whether the aforesaid provisions of Items 4 and 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 also mean that, after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, it is possible to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so.

III

1. The following was held in Item 4 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, which contains the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” whose construction is requested:

Under Article 14 of the Constitution, Lithuanian shall be the state language. The establishment of the status of the state language in the Constitution means that Lithuanian is a constitutional value. The state language preserves the identity of the nation, it integrates a civil nation, it ensures the expression of national sovereignty, the integrity and indivisibility of the state, and the smooth functioning of the state and municipal establishments. The state language is an important guarantee for the equality of rights of citizens as it permits all the citizens to associate with state and municipal establishments under the same conditions and to implement their rights and legitimate interests. The constitutional establishment of the status of state language also means that the legislature must establish by law that the use of this language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, it must provide for the means of the protection of the state language. Lithuanian, after it has acquired the status of the state language in the Constitution, must be used in all state and municipal institutions and in all establishments, enterprises and organisation which are on the territory of Lithuania; laws and other legal acts must be published in the state language; office-work, accounting, accountabilities and financial papers must be in Lithuanian; state and municipal institutions, establishments, enterprises and organisations correspond with each other in the state language.

The Constitutional Court emphasises that the constitutional status of the state language means that Lithuanian is compulsory only in the public life of Lithuania. In other spheres of life persons may use any language acceptable to them without restrictions.

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

2. Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, which contains the provision “It needs to be noted that the norms of the Resolution of the Supreme Council establishing that the name and family name of an individual shall be written in Lithuanian characters in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania according to the pronunciation are applicable to all citizens without exception regardless of their nationality or other distinctions. It is a matter of the decision of an individual to what nationality he belongs, i.e. no one save the individual himself is competent to decide the question of to which nationality this individual belongs, therefore, it is impossible to establish any exclusive rules for the use of the state language by taking account of the nationality of an individual. Nor may the nationality of an individual serve the basis for him to demand that the rules arising out of the status of the state language be not applied as far as he is concerned. Otherwise, the constitutional principle of the equality of all persons before the law might be violated.

Attention should be paid to the fact that individuals residing in Lithuania regard themselves as belonging to more than a hundred nationalities. Various characters are used in their languages which often are totally or in part different from Lithuanian characters. In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed. Due to this citizens would face more difficulties in implementing their rights and legitimate interests and the principle of their equality before the law established in the Constitution would be violated.

Writing entries in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania in the state language does not deny the right of citizens regarding themselves as belonging to various national groups to write their names and family names in any language as long as it is not linked with the sphere of the use of the state language pointed out in the law.”

3. The provisions of Items 4 and 7 of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 were formulated while construing, inter alia, Article 14 of the Constitution in which it is prescribed that Lithuanian shall be the state language.

4. The constitutional concept of the state language was formed not only in the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, whose provisions are requested to be construed, but also in, inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 10 May 2006.

The Constitutional Court’s ruling of 10 May 2006 held, inter alia, that:

<…> the Lithuanian language, as the state language, is a means of public expression and internal communication of state and municipal institutions as well as communication with members of the community. It is an important element of the statehood, a factor uniting all citizens of the Republic of Lithuania, integrating the state community—the civil Nation—because it ensures equal opportunities for all citizens of the state to participate in the governance of their country, to make decisions of national importance, also the right to enter on equal terms in the state service. The knowledge of the state language is a prerequisite and a necessary condition for the fully-fledged participation of the citizens in the governance of the state.”

5. The provision (which is requested to be construed) of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 employs, inter alia, the formulation “Lithuanian characters”.

In this context it needs to be mentioned that the basis of the characters of the Lithuanian language, as the state language of Lithuania, as well as of an absolute majority of the state (official) languages of European countries, is Latin characters.

Under the Constitution, the characters of the Lithuanian language and the essential issues related with their use, inter alia, the principles of corresponding transcription, must be defined by the legislature or a state institution authorised by it.

6. As mentioned before, the Constitutional Court has held more than once that a ruling of the Constitutional Court is integral.

In this context it needs to be noted that the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” of Item 4 and the provision “In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed” of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999 are interrelated and should be construed as a whole.

The aforesaid doctrinal provisions, which are requested to be construed, imply that the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language in the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, and that only the entry of the name and family name of an individual in the state language is the official confirmation of the identity of that individual, which gives rise to corresponding legal effects linked to the use of the name and family name of that individual in public life in Lithuania.

7. It is generally known that in addition to the section wherein the data confirming the identity of the individual are entered (first of all, the name and family name of the individual), there are sections designed for entering additional data about the individual or for placing additional markings (in which, by the way, not only the state (official) language is used). This is characteristic of the passport of the Republic of Lithuania as well.

It needs to be noted that if the name and family name of the individual were entered in non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form on other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so, the official confirmation of the identity of the individual in the state language would persist in the same passport of the citizen. Alongside, it should be noted that the entry of the name and family name of the individual in non-Lithuanian characters on other sections for entries of the passport should not be made equal to the entry regarding the identity of the individual made in the state language.

In the said cases, there would not be any grounds for maintaining that upon entering the name and family name of an individual in non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form on other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so, the imperatives that “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” and that the state language must be used in public life, which arise from the Constitution, would be denied.

Thus, the legislature, upon stipulating that the name and family name of an individual are written in Lithuanian characters in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, also enjoys the discretion to stipulate that it is allowed to enter the name and family name of the individual in non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form on other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so. In such a case the legislature should establish the grounds for writing names and family names in a non-state language in other sections for entries in the passport, inter alia, the fact as to what objective criteria should be followed so that it would be possible to enter the name and family name of the individual in non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form on other sections for entries of the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania.

While establishing the grounds for writing the name and family name of an individual in a non-state language in the passport of a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, the legislature should heed the fact that, as mentioned before, the basis of the characters of the Lithuanian language, as the state language of Lithuania, as well as of an absolute majority of the state (official) languages of European countries, is Latin characters.

8. While construing, subsequent to the petition of the Seimas, the petitioner, the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” of Item 4 and the provision “In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed” of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 21 October 1999, the conclusion should be drawn that, after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language in the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, it is allowed to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so; such entry of the name and family name of the individual in non-Lithuanian characters on other sections for entries of the passport should not be made equal to the entry regarding the identity of the individual made in the state language.

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

decision:

To construe that the provision “the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language” of Item 4 and the provision “In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian characters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and municipal institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed” of Item 7 of the reasoning part of the 21 October 1999 Ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 2660-2662) also means that, after the name and family name of an individual have been entered in the state language on the passport of the Republic of Lithuania, it is allowed to specify the name and family name of the individual in other, non-Lithuanian characters and in non-grammaticised form in other sections for entries of the passport, when the individual requests so; such entry of the name and family name of the individual in non-Lithuanian characters on other sections for entries of the passport should not be made equal to the entry regarding the identity of the individual made in the state language.

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

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

Justices of the Constitutional Court: Armanas Abramavičius
                                                                      Toma Birmontienė
                                                                      Pranas Kuconis
                                                                      Kęstutis Lapinskas
                                                                      Zenonas Namavičius
                                                                      Ramutė Ruškytė
                                                                      Egidijus Šileikis
                                                                      Algirdas Taminskas
                                                                      Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis