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On the Law on Hunting

Case No. 14/02

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 7, PARAGRAPHS 1, 9, AND 10 OF ARTICLE 8, PARAGRAPH 2 OF ARTICLE 13, PARAGRAPH 7 OF ARTICLE 18, AND PARAGRAPHS 3, 6, AND 7 OF ARTICLE 22 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON HUNTING WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

13 May 2005

Vilnius

 

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Armanas Abramavičius, Toma Birmontienė, Egidijus Kūris, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zenonas Namavičius, Ramutė Ruškytė, Vytautas Sinkevičius, Stasys Stačiokas, and Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Gintaras Steponavičius and Raimondas Šukys, acting as the representatives of a group of members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the petitioner

Neringa Azguridienė, an advisor at the Legal Department of the Office of the Seimas, and Darius Karvelis, a senior advisor to the Committee on Environment Protection of the Seimas, acting as the representatives of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, and Article 1 and Paragraph 3 of Article 54 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, on 5–6 April 2005 and 10 May 2005, in its public hearing, considered case No. 14/02 subsequent to the petition of a group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether:

1) the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting, the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the same law, and the provision “The damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in the land lots whose owner has prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the same law are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania;

2) the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

A group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting an investigation into whether:

1) the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2002, No. 65-2634), the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the same law, and the provision “The damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in the land lots whose owner has prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the same law are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

2) the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

II

The petition of the petitioner is based on the following arguments.

The impugned provisions of Articles 7, 13, and 18 of the Law on Hunting consolidate the presumption of admissibility of hunting in private land lots which may unreasonably limit the rights of owners to freely use their private property. Shooting and catching wild animals are objectively dangerous actions not only to the crops and forest in the lot where the hunting takes place, but to people in the forest as well. According to the Law on Hunting, these dangerous actions in a private lot may be exercised without the owner’s knowing about particular events of hunt. Therefore, in the opinion of the petitioner, the presumption that it is allowed to hunt in private lots until it becomes prohibited to do so, violates the rights of the owners which are entrenched in the Constitution. The petitioner notes that pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, the owner may prohibit hunting in a private land lot only due to possible damage to forest or crops, however, the owner has no right to prohibit hunting on the basis of other reasons, for example due to safety of people or personal beliefs related to care for animals. In the petitioner’s opinion, the constitutional right of ownership is thus unreasonably limited. Due to this, the petitioner doubts whether the provisions consolidated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7, Paragraph 2 of Article 13 and Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

The petitioner also states that the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting that a hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area unreasonably limits the rights of private owners to use lots, the area of which is less than 1000 ha, for hunting and restricts the private initiative of hunting business. Therefore, the petitioner doubts as to whether this provision of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

III

1. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written explanations of the representatives of the party concerned, the Seimas, who were A. Macaitis, a member of the Seimas, D. Karvelis, a senior consultant to the Committee on Environment Protection of the Seimas, and Neringa Azguridienė, the chief expert at the Legal Department of the Office of the Seimas, were received

It is noted in the explanations of the representatives of the party concerned that the issue of constitutionality of the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting must be solved on the basis of provisions of Articles 53 and 54 of the Constitution. In Paragraph 3 of Article 53 of the Constitution one consolidates the duty of the state and each person to protect the environment from harmful influences. The guidelines of implementation of this duty are established in Article 54 of the Constitution, Paragraph 1 of which provides that the state shall look after the protection of the natural environment, its fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value, and shall supervise that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented. According to the representatives of the party concerned, environmental protection is a public interest, therefore, the implementation of the ownership rights should not be in conflict with the provisions of national policy on environmental protection.

In the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, when analysing the compliance of the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting with Article 23 of the Constitution, one must take into account their relation with other norms of this law, as well as specifics of legal regulation of respective public relations. Under Article 1 of the Law on Hunting, the purpose of this law is to set forth public relations linked to the protection of huntable animals existing in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania and their rational use. Huntable animals as a part of wildlife, is one of the natural resources protected by law, as it is a part of a continuous ecological system. Wild animals, as a part of environment, are subject to the general principles of environmental protection: environmental protection is a concern and duty of the state and every citizen; public and private interests must be aimed at improving the quality of environment; reduction of harmful influence upon environment; rational and complex use of natural resources.

In the explanations of the representatives of the party concerned one specifies that wild animals that exist in freedom belong to the state by the ownership right. Alongside, it is said that wildlife as a national property belongs to all the citizens of this country, i.e. the society, and the state administers natural resources, uses them and disposes of them while paying heed to the interests of the society and according to its commission.

The representatives of the party concerned have stressed that under the Law on Hunting the owner of private land is not only informed about the formation of a hunting plot unit, but he may also prohibit hunting on the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will become under threat during hunting. In the opinion of the representatives of the Seimas, the content of the notion “damage to a forest” may be understood quit widely, and the owner of the forest (land lot), while protecting his ownership not only from a negative material effect, but from any negative effect on the forest (for example, destruction of biological variety) as well, has the right to prohibit hunting. The representatives of the party concerned state that this is proven by the practise of application of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, which has showed that all the requirements of the owners to prohibit hunting in their land, whatever were the motives of such requirements, were granted when forming hunting plot units.

According to the representatives of the party concerned, the restrictions on ownership rights, established by the impugned norms of the Law on Hunting, are determined by the national environmental protection policy and its aims. The legislature consolidated certain restrictions on the rights of owners of land lots in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting while taking account of the interest of the entire society (rational use of wild animals). Therefore, in the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, these provisions of the law are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

In the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution either, as it consolidates the principle of relief of civil liability originating from actions of the aggrieved person.

It is noted also in the explanations of the representatives of the party concerned that the purpose of formation of a hunting plot unit is to ensure the rational management of population of huntable animals, their sufficient protection, as well as proper and safe hunt. Territorial administration of populations of huntable animals and their treasured use is possible only when hunting plot units coincide with the territory of natural migration of these animals. Therefore, the larger territory is covered by a hunting plot unit, the more rational is the management of the populations of huntable animals.

In the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, the minimum size of a hunting plot unit established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting in no way restricts the initiative of private business. Alongside, the representatives of the Seimas noted that the freedom of a person’s economic activity is not absolute and that the state regulates economic activity by co-ordinating private and public interests. In the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, the impugned provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

IV

In the course of the preparation of the case for the judicial hearing, written explanations were received from A. Kundrotas, the Minister, and A. Vasiliauskas, the Vice Minister of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania, I. Jarukaitis, the Deputy Director General of the European Law Department under the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, Assoc. Prof. V. Pakalniškis, the Head of the Civil and Commercial Law Department at the Faculty of Law of Mykolas Romeris University, and Assoc. Prof. A. Taminskas who works at the Civil Law and Civil Procedure Department at the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University. Moreover, official letters were received from the Council of the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society, J. Juozapaitis, the President of the Board of the Pasvalys Unit of the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society, S. Mizaras, the President of the Board of the Forest Owners’ Association of Lithuania, R. A. Valiulis, the President of the Private Hunting Plots’ Owners Association of Lithuania, and A. Gaižutis, the President of the Board of the Forest Owners’ Association of Lithuania, and a joint letter of S. Mizaras, the President of the Board of the Forest Owners’ Association of Lithuania, A. Venskūnienė, the President of the Land Owners’ Union of Lithuania, and A. Valiulis, the President of the Private Hunting Plots’ Owners Association of Lithuania.

V

1. At the Constitutional Court’s hearing the representatives of the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, who were G. Steponavičius and R. Šukys, reiterated the arguments set forth in the petition of the petitioner and submitted additional explanations concerning the arguments of the petitioner.

2. At the Constitutional Court’s hearing the representatives of the Seimas, the party concerned, who were N. Azguridienė and D. Karvelis, reiterated the arguments set forth in the written explanations.

3. At the Constitutional Court’s hearing the witnesses, who were A. A. Brukas, E. Dainauskas, A. Mickūnas, K. Šiaulys, R. A. Valiulis, and J. Vyšniauskas were questioned.

4. At the Constitutional Court’s hearing, the following experts took the stand: L. Budrys, the Director of the Nature Protection Department at the Ministry of Environment, A. Klimavičius, the head of the Division for the Strategy of Protected Territories of the Nature Protection Department at the Ministry of Environment, and V. Vaičiūnas, the Director of the Forests Department at the Ministry of Environment.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

On 20 June 2002, the Seimas adopted the Law on Hunting which became effective on 1 October 2002 (Paragraph 1 of Article 21 of the Law on Hunting), save Paragraphs 1, 2, and 6 of Article 8, and Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 11, which became effective on 1 April 2003 (Paragraph 3 of Article 21 of the Law on Hunting), as well as Paragraph 3 of Article 15 and Paragraph 8 of Article 14, which became effective on 1 April 2004 (Paragraph 4 of Article 21 of the Law on Hunting). It was established in Paragraph 2 of Article 21 of the Law on Hunting that Article 6 of this law becomes effective after the adoption of the Law on Amending the Law on Taxes on National Natural Resources. On 19 September 2002, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending and Supplementing Articles 3, 4, 6, 7, and 11 of the Law on Taxes on National Natural Resources, which became effective on 1 January 2003. Thus, the date of commencement of application of Article 6 of the Law on Hunting is 1 January 2003.

On 10 June 2003, the Seimas adopted the Law on Amending Articles 6, 12, and 18 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting, by which it amended Paragraph 3 of Article 6, Item 4 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12, and Paragraph 4 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting (wording of 20 June 2002) and set them forth in a new wording.

2. The petitioner requests an investigation into whether:

the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution;

the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

the provision “The damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in the land lots whose owner has prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

In the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting, one entrenched certain prohibitions on hunting (Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13), regulated the size of hunting plot units (Paragraph 1 of Article 8), and prescribed that the damage inflicted by huntable animals will not be recovered (Paragraph 7 of Article 18).

3. When deciding, according to the petition of the petitioner, whether the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting (its articles or paragraphs) are not in conflict with the Constitution, one should note that, as it is specified in Article 1 of the Law on Hunting, the purpose of this law is to “set forth public relations linked to the protection of huntable animals located in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania and their rational use”. The Law on Hunting regulates the ownership right to huntable animals, the right of use of the resources of huntable animals, formation of hunting plot units and the procedure of the granting of the right to use the huntable animals’ resources in this territory, grating the right to hunt, liability for violations of this law, recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals, etc. It should be held that by the Law on Hunting one strives to systemically regulate relations of hunting and those linked therewith, and to create a legal basis for detailing and specification of legal regulation of these relations in substatutory legal acts.

Thus, the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting regarding the prohibition on hunting, the size of hunting plot units and non-recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals, may not be systemically unrelated to other provisions of this law which regulate in various aspects the named public relations, i.e. relations of hunting and those linked therewith. Therefore, one must find out what is the connection of the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting with other provisions of this law and other laws regulating public relations that are directly or indirectly linked, inter alia, to the prohibitions on hunting, sizes of hunting plot units and recovery or non-recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals. Moreover, one must find out the content of the provisions of the Law on Hunting which are aimed at ensuring the transition from relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on the former legal regulation, to relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on the legal regulation established by the Law on Hunting, and assess its compliance with the Constitution.

4. The content of the impugned provisions should be construed within the context of the legal regulation of relations of hunting and those linked therewith, which is established in other laws as well. It should be noted that certain relations of hunting and those linked therewith may also be regulated to some extent by substatutory legal act. However, this does not mean that the provisions of the Law on Hunting may be construed according to the way, in which particular notions used therein are defined in substatutory legal acts (inter alia, government resolutions), or the way, in which particular legal regulation of relations of hunting and those linked therewith, established in the Law on Hunting, is detailed or specified in substatutory legal acts (inter alia, government resolutions). Quite to the contrary, pursuant to the Constitution, legal regulation established in all substatutory legal acts (thus, government resolutions inclusive) regulating the relations of hunting and those linked therewith must be based on the one established in the laws.

5. Within the context of the case of constitutional justice at issue, it should be noted that in the Law on Hunting the hunting is defined as “protection of huntable animals and their rational use in accordance with this Law, other legal acts regulating the hunting, and by paying heed to the ecological conditions of the hunting plots, ethical norms and traditions of the national hunting culture” (Paragraph 8 of Article 2).

6. Within the context of the case of constitutional justice at issue, it is important to find out also what authentic hunting tradition has developed in Lithuania, how this tradition was reflected in legal acts, what was the development of legal regulation of hunting relations prior to the adoption of the Law on Hunting, the compliance of provisions of which with the Constitution is impugned, and to find out whether the legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting continues the tradition of hunting which exists in Lithuania or is remote from it.

II

In Lithuania, the origins of legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith have been traced as far back as the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Provisions designated for hunting, its arrangement, inter alia, the formation and maintenance of hunting areas, are found in the Kazimieras’ Statute-book (1468), the First (1529), Second (1566) and Third (1588) Lithuanian Statutes, the Valakų Law (1557), the Royal Woods Ordinance (1639).

The legal acts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania treated hunting as an exclusive right of feudal lords, which was inseparable from their ownership right to land: the feudal lords could make use of this right on their land unrestricted.

2. After the third partition of the Lithuanian and Polish Commonwealth, which took place in 1795, hunting relations and those linked therewith were regulated by the Third Lithuanian Statute (till 1840), and later—by means of laws of the Russian Empire. According to the laws of the Russian Empire, which were effective in Lithuania at that time, hunting was grouped into big one (hunting of big animals in large woods and state forests) and small one (hunting of small animals and birds in the fields, bushes and groves). The hunting right on private plots of land was linked with the ownership right to land. On the other hand, the said laws consolidated an opportunity to transfer the right of hunting to other persons, thus, this right was already treated also as a separate matter of transactions. It is also worth noticing that the minimum size of the hunting plot unit was established—it was permitted to hunt on the plot of no less than 150 margas (approximately 90 ha).

3. After the restoration of the independent state on 16 February 1918, in Lithuania acts of the Russian Empire were effective for some time, including those that regulated hunting relations.

The first legal act of the restored State of Lithuania, which was designated for regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith, was “Temporary Rules of Hunting”, a substatutory legal act, a circular note to officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and State-owned Property, which was announced by the Vice-minister of Agriculture and State-owned Property on 15 June 1920.

On 3 April 1925, the Seimas adopted the Law on Hunting. The President of the Republic promulgated this law on 9 May 1925. The Law on Hunting provided for the basic principles regarding regulation of hunting relations. According to this law, the right to hunt on a certain hunting plot was vested in the manager of the plot in question (Item 1 § 1), while it was permitted to hunt in another’s plot of land only after receiving a written permission of the manager of the plot of land (Item 2 § 1). It was also prescribed that huntable animals and birds injured by a shot that entered into another hunting plot was property of the manager of the plot in question (§3). The notion “manager” included both the owners and other lawful managers. On the other hand, hunting was limited: the law prohibited the hunting of elks, deer, hind, beavers, wisents and offspring of these animals as well as certain birds (§11).

4. On 24 October 1935, the President of the Republic promulgated a new Law on Hunting (certain provisions whereof were amended and supplemented by the 1936 amendment to the Law on Hunting). According to this law, the care for the wildlife and the right of hunting on a certain land was vested in the manager of this land (Article 1); huntable animals and birds injured by a shot or wounded in other manner in the course of hunting (save certain exceptions separately pointed out) that entered from the hunting plot into another’s land would become property of the manager of the land in question (Article 5). The same law also established the size of hunting plots: no less than 100 ha plot of land constituted a hunting farm, while its owner or lawful manager was permitted to hunt in that farm either by himself or to transfer this right to another person (Item 1 of Article 7); if two or more land owners agreed, if, thus, the common and continuous plot of land comprised no less than 100 ha, this common plot could be registered with a respective county chief as an individual hunting farm unit (Item 2 of Article 7). Hunting units could also be formed from state-owned lands, forests and water bodies (Article 8). The granting of the right to hunt was regulated in this law in this way: anyone who wished to hunt had to have a hunting certificate issued by the county chief, which granted the right to keep a hunting rifle (Article 9); a person had the right to receive a hunting certificate, who had no less than 100 ha of territory, which was either his own, or rented for hunting, or otherwise acquired for the right of hunting, as well as owners of common management, members of hunting societies, circles and other hunting collectives, if the owners of such plots, societies, circles, and collectives had acquired the right to hunt in a plot of territory of no less than 100 ha for each member (Article 10). It was prohibited to hunt beavers, elks, deer, lynxes, hind (offspring inclusive) and certain birds all year round (Article 47). Hunting in “sanctuaries” (i.e. reservations) was prohibited (Article 57).

The provisions of the 24 October 1935 Law on Hunting (with subsequent amendments and supplements) were detailed and particularised in the Rules of Enforcement of the Law on Hunting, announced by the Minister of Agriculture on 14 July 1937.

5. Summing up, it should be held that till 1940 the tradition of legal regulation of hunting in Lithuania and relations linked therewith was characteristic of treatment of hunting as one of the means of guaranteeing protection and rational use of wildlife and as a pastime activity. Hunting was an activity regulated by legal acts and controlled by the state (its institutions). Hunting activity was limited. Such limitations included, inter alia, the prohibitions on hunting certain animals all year round or at a certain time (from a certain date specified in the law till another date specified in the law), as well as in “sanctuaries” (i.e. reservations), as well as the establishment of the minimum hunting plot (100 ha). The laws of Lithuania limited the opportunity to freely engage in hunting activity also in the aspect that the right of hunting on a certain plot (lot) of land was vested in the owner or lawful manager of this plot (lot) of land: without consent of the land owner or the lawful manager of the land hunting in the land that belonged to them was prohibited. Thus, the hunting right on a certain plot (lot) of land was linked with the right of ownership of the owners to corresponding land, forests and water bodies. The owner (manager) could transfer this right to other persons. The owners themselves could form hunting plots from their own land, while state institutions could form them only from state-owned lands, forests and water bodies.

6. In this context, it needs to be noted that upon restoration of the independent State of Lithuania in 1918, the basics of legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith were established in legal acts which had the force of a law, save a short period from 1918 till 1925, when such legal acts bearing the force of a law that had to regulate the said relations had not been issued yet.

III

1. In 1940, Lithuania was occupied, annexed and incorporated into another state—the Soviet Union. The occupation government nationalised and in other unlawful manner disseized land, forests and parks, water bodies, a great many of other objects of private ownership, thus denying the innate human right itself to private ownership. In the Soviet legal acts land, forests and parks, water bodies (both those that used to belong to the State of Lithuania and those that until then had belonged to private persons by right of ownership) were treated as exclusive property of the state (as property of not Lithuania, but of the Soviet Union, i.e. so-called “common property of the people”). The said objects could be given only to be used to other subjects—state-owned, cooperative and public enterprises, establishments and organisations. By legal acts of the Soviet Union all objects of natural environment were nationalised, wildlife inclusive. During the Soviet years the legal regulation of organisation of land exploitation, land use, organisation of forest exploitation, organisation of hunting, conservation of nature and protection of the environment in general, and of all other social relations linked with protection and use of natural environment was based on nationalisation of all land, all forests and parks, all water bodies, all of other objects of natural environment.

2. On 22 April 1959, in Lithuania under the Soviet rule the Law on Protection of Nature and on 19 June 1981 the Law on Wildlife Protection and Use were adopted. These laws regulated relations linked with hunting only in certain aspects. The relations of arrangement of hunting and management of hunting were mostly regulated by various substatutory legal acts. The last legal act of the Soviet of Ministers of Lithuania under the Soviet rule was the Regulations of the Hunting Management on the Territory of the Lithuanian SSR [Soviet Socialist Republic] as confirmed by the Decision (No. 276) “On the Regulations of the Hunting Management on the Territory of the Lithuanian SSR” of 30 November 1989 adopted by the Soviet of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR, which were effective till the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania in 1990 and for some time after that.

3. It was established in the laws and substatutory legal acts of Lithuania under the Soviet rule that wildlife (thus, also animals that exist in freedom) is “sate-owned property, the common property of the entire Soviet people”. Animals that existed in freedom constituted the state hunting fund. All plots of land, forests and water bodies in which animals and birds could live and which could be used for hunting were recognised hunting plots. All hunting plots used to be at the command of corresponding state institutions, which would adopt decisions regarding assigning or leasing hunting plots to state establishments or enterprises (e.g., establishments of science and education, forestry enterprises), or public, as a rule, hunters’ and fishers’ organisations (societies), which, in their turn, used to assign or lease the hunting plots assign to them to circles of hunters. It must be emphasised that under the legal acts of the period users of hunting plots could only be state establishments and enterprises, or circles of hunters. In this context it needs to be noted that during the years of the Soviet rule legal acts used to consolidate a duty of land users to lease hunting plots to the assigned circles of hunters and other users. On the other hand, in addition to the so-called assigned hunting plots, hunting plots were picked out also in sanctuaries (for a certain period—also in reservations), as well as in state hunting farms; these hunting plots were managed according to regulations as confirmed by respective state establishments. Minimum sizes of hunting plots were not established.

During the years of the Soviet rule legal acts used for some time to provide for the so-called hunting plots of common use, in which all hunters belonging to hunting societies had the right to hunt. However, in the middle of the fifties of the 20th century there was transition from hunting plots of common use to the so-called assigned hunting farms, which, as mentioned before, used to be assigned or leased to corresponding state establishments or public organisations, as a rule, those of hunters and fishers.

4. Summing up, it needs to be held that the authentic Lithuanian hunting tradition was denied by legal acts during the Soviet years in the aspect that the legal regulation of hunting relations was based on the belonging of all land, all forests and parks, all water bodies, all other objects of natural environment, including wild animals that existed in freedom, solely to the state.

The Lithuanian hunting tradition was denied by legal acts during the Soviet years also in the aspect that hunting plots were begun to be distributed in a centralised manner: institutions of public authority would decide that certain territories had to be used as hunting plots and would assign them to state establishments or enterprises (e.g., establishments of science and education, forestry enterprises) or public organisations so that the latter could assign or lease these hunting plots to circles of hunters, while users of land had to lease the plots assigned to them to the assigned circles of hunters and other users.

Neither natural persons nor most of legal persons could independently use hunting plots, since only state establishments and enterprises or circles of hunters could be users of hunting plots.

On the other hand, during the Soviet years the legal acts that regulated hunting relations and those linked therewith, like the legal acts of the State of Lithuania that had been in effect before, treated hunting as one of the means to guarantee the protection of wild animals and their rational use, and, alongside, as a pastime activity.

IV

1. On 11 March 1990, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Act of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania “On the Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania”. In this Act it was established, inter alia, that, in Lithuania, no constitution of any other state was effective. On the same day the Supreme Council adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Provisional Basic Law of the Republic of Lithuania” by Article 2 whereof it confirmed the Provisional Basic Law of the Republic of Lithuania, which was the provisional constitution of the independent State of Lithuania. On the basis of the Provisional Basic Law one started creating the national legal system. One of peculiarities of the newly created authentic national legal system of Lithuania and an important precondition for its further development was the fact that the institute of private ownership was restored in the legal system of this country.

In this context it needs to be noted that Paragraph 1 of Article 44 of the Provisional Basic Law used to provide that “the economic system of Lithuania shall be based on the property of the Republic of Lithuania, which shall consist of the private property of its citizens, the property of groups of citizens (collectives), and state property.”

Paragraph 1 of Article 45 of the Provisional Basic Law used to provide that “the land, its mineral resources, inland and territorial waters, forests, flora and fauna, and other natural resources shall be the national wealth of Lithuania and the exclusive property of the Republic of Lithuania”, also that “other property belonging exclusively to the Republic of Lithuania may also be owned by citizens of Lithuania and their groups (collectives)”.

It should be held that the formula “exclusive property of the Republic of Lithuania” of Paragraph 1 of Article 45 of the Provisional Basic Law should be construed while one takes account of the tasks for the just restored State of Lithuania. By the said provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 45 of the Provisional Basic Law it was first of all sought to consolidate that certain objects as national property of Lithuania may belong as private ownership only to a single state, the Republic of Lithuania, and that it may not belong to any other states; this textual form was chosen in order to stress that the said objects cannot be treated as belonging to the Soviet Union. Thus, especially while one bears in mind that under Paragraph 1 of Article 45 of the Provisional Basic Law “other property objects belonging exclusively to the Republic of Lithuania may also be owned by citizens of Lithuania and their groups (collectives)”, it is impossible to attach the same meaning to the formula “exclusive property of the Republic of Lithuania” that is employed in the provision “the land, its mineral resources, inland and territorial waters, forests, flora and fauna, and other natural resources shall be the national wealth of Lithuania and the exclusive property of the Republic of Lithuania” as that of virtually analogous formulas in regard of their textual form which were used in the provision “The right of exclusive ownership of the subterranean, as well as internal waters, forests, parks, roads, historical, archaeological and cultural objects of State importance shall belong to the Republic of Lithuania” of Paragraph 3 (wording of 25 October 1992) of Article 47 of the Constitution, which was adopted subsequently (after actual consolidation of the independence of the State of Lithuania and its international recognition), in the provision “The right of exclusive ownership of the subterranean, as well as internal waters, forests, parks, roads, historical, archaeological and cultural objects of State importance shall belong to the Republic of Lithuania” of Paragraph 4 (wording of 20 June 1996) of Article 47 of the Constitution, and in the provision “The right of exclusive ownership of the subterranean, as well as internal waters, forests, parks, roads, historical, archaeological and cultural objects of State importance shall belong to the Republic of Lithuania” of Paragraph 1 (wording of 23 January 2003) of Article 47 of the Constitution which is effective at present.

Taking account of this, it should be held that by Paragraph 1 of Article 45 of the Provisional Basic Law the land, its mineral resources, inland and territorial waters, forests, flora and fauna, and other natural resources (unlike the subterranean) were not nationalised—it merely confirmed the returning of the said objects from the jurisdiction of another state, the Soviet Union, which was based on the provision of the Act “On the Restoration of the Independent State of Lithuania” that in Lithuania no constitution of any other state was effective.

2. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should also be mentioned that the Provisional Basic Law established the bases of the legal regulation of relations of use and protection of objects of natural environment, fauna inclusive: Article 42 of the Provisional Basic Law established a duty of citizens of Lithuania to protect nature, to preserve its treasures and build a healthy natural environment.

3. Under Article 3 of the Law “On the Provisional Basic Law of the Republic of Lithuania”, in the Republic of Lithuania the laws and other legal acts of Lithuania which had been in force and which were not in conflict with the Provisional Basic Law continued to be effective. Upon restoration of the independent State of Lithuania, there occurred a legal situation where legal acts that had been issued prior to the restoration of the independent State of Lithuania were in effect.

In this context, it should be mentioned that the legal acts regulating hunting relations remained in force, the Law on Wildlife Protection and Use (adopted as far back as 19 June 1981) inclusive in which fauna (thus, also wild animals that existed in freedom) were treated as state property (Paragraph 1 of Article 3).

Alongside, substatutory legal acts were being issued, which were designed for regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith.

4. On 30 April 1991, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 166) “On Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania”, by which, inter alia, the Provisional Regulations for Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania were confirmed. It was established in the said regulations that huntable animals and birds and other wild animals and birds are state property (Item 5), that managers and owners of land lease hunting plots to hunters’ organisations and other users (Item 6), also, that it is prohibited to hunt in lands of the owner without his consent (Item 6). Under Item 8 of the said regulations, in state forests the unit of organisation of a hunting farm was the territory of a forester’s district, while in an agro-landscape zone such a unit was the whole of fields, groves and shrubbery the total area of which was no less than 200 ha; the lease of smaller plots of land was decided by the managers and owners of the land together with respective forest offices. Damage inflicted by wild animals had to be repaid by users of the hunting plots who were disposing of the means received from hunting production (Item 13).

5. By the Order (No. 6/35) “On Hunting Plot Lease Agreements” of 22 January 1992 issued by the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Lithuania and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania the form of agreements on hunting plot lease (according to the attached example) was confirmed.

It needs to be noted that the said order (and the form of agreements on hunting plot lease) did not contain any provisions which would not permit the owner to use respective land lots (hunting plots) for other, not hunting purposes, inter alia, to lease these lots (hunting plots) to other persons so that they could use these lots (hunting plots) not for hunting, but other purposes. Therefore, although the said so-called agreement on hunting plot lease, according to which the owner (manager) permits another person to hunt on the land lots (hunting plots) that belong to him by right of ownership (which are managed by him) are referred to as “lease agreements”, they, by their legal content, have never been, nor are identical to lease agreements on land or other property which are provided for in civil laws. In their legal content the said “agreements on hunting plot lease” are agreements on granting the right to hunt in certain hunting plots to a certain person; they treat the right to hunt as a separate matter of transaction.

6. At the time when the Lithuanian national legal system was being created and one also began to reform the legal regulation of hunting relations, the restitution process was taking place during which the existing real property that had been nationalised and disseized in other unlawful manner by the occupation government was being returned to the former owners. Recognising continuity of ownership rights and their restoration, on 15 November 1990 the Supreme Council adopted a principle decision and confirmed these provisions: continuity of ownership rights of citizens of Lithuania is recognised; citizens of Lithuania have the right, within the limits and under procedure defined by law, to retrieve in kind the property that belonged to them, while in the absence of the possibility of retrieving it—to receive compensation. On 18 June 1991, the Supreme Council adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of Restoration of Citizens’ Rights of Ownership to the Existing Real Property”, which established to what persons, what property and under what conditions and procedure the rights of ownership had to be restored. According to this law (with subsequent amendments and supplements), limited restitution was carried out—the former owners were being restored their rights of ownership to land, forests and water bodies. The restitution process is still going on; it is regulated by the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Restoration of Citizens’ Rights of Ownership to the Existing Real Property (with subsequent amendments and supplements), which was adopted by the Seimas on 1 July 1997, and which replaced the said Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of Restoration of Citizens’ Rights of Ownership to the Existing Real Property” (with subsequent amendments and supplements) which was adopted by the Supreme Council on 18 June 1991.

The land reform was also launched and carried out in parallel. On 25 July 1991, the Supreme Council adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform which (with subsequent amendments and supplements) regulated the relations of land ownership and procedure of land reform. The goal of the launched land reform was to implement the right of Lithuanian citizens to land ownership by returning the expropriated land in accordance with the procedures and terms established by law, and by buying land, as well as to create legal, organisational, and economic preconditions for the development of agricultural production by freely chosen forms of farming (Article 2 of the Law on Land Reform). In Paragraph 2 of Article 5 of the Law on Land Reform it was established, inter alia, that during the implementation of land reform, private and state ownership land-use systems shall be formed. The ways of acquisition of land were restoration (restitution) of the right of ownership and purchase (Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the Law on Land Reform). Land reform was related with the process of the privatisation of state and municipal property, including land, forests and water bodies. Laws as well as substatutory acts were passed providing for an opportunity for citizens to privatise state and municipal property, as well as property formerly held by Soviet agricultural enterprises (collective and state farms).

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that in itself neither the land reform nor the restitution process changed hunting relations and those linked therewith, however, after opportunities had been created for the owners to restore their rights to the existing real property (including land, forests and water bodies), also opportunities for citizens to buy land, forests and water bodies, the legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith had to be changed in a corresponding manner, too. In this respect, land reform and the privatisation process related with it, as well as the restitution process, could not avoid influencing the restructuring of hunting relations and those linked therewith, thus, also the legal regulation of these relations.

V

1. The Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania was adopted by referendum which took place on 25 October 1992. It went into effect on 2 November 1992. Under Article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania “On the Procedure of Entry into Effect of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania”, which was adopted by the Nation by the 25 October 1992 referendum together with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and which is a constituent part of the Constitution, upon entry into effect of the Constitution, the Provisional Basic Law became null and void. From then on the Lithuanian national legal system had to be created and developed only on the grounds of the Constitution.

2. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it is worth mentioning that in Article 23 of the Constitution the imperatives of inviolability of property and its protection are established. Private ownership as one of the bases of the national economy is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution. Article 47 of the Constitution has established, inter alia, the objects that belong to the Republic of Lithuania under exclusive right of ownership: under Paragraph 3 (wording of 25 October 1992) of this article, these objects were the subterranean, as well as internal waters, forests, parks, roads, historical, archaeological and cultural objects of state importance. The same objects were indicated in Paragraph 4 (wording of 20 June 1996) of Article 47 of the Constitution; they are indicated also in Paragraph 1 (wording of 23 January 2003) of Article 47 of the Constitution which is in effect at present. It should be held that wildlife has never been nor is mentioned by the Constitution to be among the objects that belong to the Republic of Lithuania under the exclusive right of ownership.

The Constitution also provides for the grounds of the legal regulation of natural environment, of legal relations of use and protection of its individual objects. Under Article 54 of the Constitution, the state shall look after the protection of the natural environment, its fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value, and shall supervise that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented (Paragraph 1); the destruction of land and the subterranean, the pollution of water and air, environmental degradation as the result of radioactive impact, and the impoverishment of fauna and flora, shall be prohibited by law (Paragraph 2).

3. On 7 June 1993, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 397) “On Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” by Item 6 of which it recognised the Government Resolution (No. 166) “On Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania” of 30 April 1991 (by which the Provisional Regulations for Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania had been confirmed) as no longer valid. By Item 1.1 of the Government Resolution (No. 397) “On Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 7 June 1993, the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania were confirmed. It was established in Item 1 of the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania that huntable animals and birds (huntable fauna) on hunting plots shall be state-owned property, while huntable fauna held in specially built enclosures shall be property of the manager of the land. Under Item 6 of the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, managers of state-owned land had to lease hunting plots for no less than a 10-year period under a typical agreement (prepared by the Ministry of Forestry, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society, upon coordination with the Department of Environmental Protection), while owners of land could lease hunting plots or grant the right to use them also for a period shorter than 10 years. It was also established in the same item that hunting plots could be leased only to the circles or clubs of hunters which had the status of a legal person and that the priority of leasing hunting plots had to be given to the collectives of hunters which had hunted in these plots for a prolonged time (it was not clearly defined as to what time had to be regarded as a prolonged time). Under this item, the agreement on hunting plot lease could be cancelled upon the expiry of its validity, upon abolishment of the hunting organisation, in cases when damage inflicted by animals was not repaid or important terms of the agreement were not followed. Besides, it was established in the same item that without the owners’ consent hunting was prohibited in hunting plots which belonged to the owners and which were not leased. Under established procedure, in non-leased hunting plots which belonged to owners hunting without consent of the owners was prohibited (Item 9). It was established in Item 8 of the said regulations that, as a rule, the boundaries of hunting farm units which had been formed long before were not to be changed (one did not clearly specify as to which boundaries of hunting farm units had to be held as those that had been formed long before); in vacant hunting plots hunting farm units had to be formed so that they constitute continuous no less than 500 ha areas of forests, fields, groves, shrubbery and water bodies, by taking account of the elementary populations of the huntable fauna; for the purpose of hunting small huntable animals and birds (hares, partridges, ducks etc.) smaller hunting farm units could also be formed. Damage inflicted by wild hoofed animals to agriculture and forestry had to be repaid by users of the hunting plots who were disposing of the hunting production (Item 14).

By Item 1.3 of the Government Resolution (No. 397) “On Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 7 June 1993, the Procedure of Repayment of Damage Inflicted by Wild Hoofed Animals to Crops was confirmed. Under Item 1 of the said procedure, damage inflicted by wild hoofed animals on agricultural crops would be assessed and calculated under the methods as confirmed by the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture, by a commission of damage calculation, which used to be formed by a decision of the district board, into which (i.e. the commission) a representative from the board (chairperson of the commission), representatives from the users of agricultural and forestry plots and the petitioner used to be included.

Under Item 6 of the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, in case land owners refused to lease hunting plots for hunting, the damage inflicted by huntable animals and birds would not have to be repaid, while under Item 7, the land owners who did not lease their land property for hunting, were responsible for care and protection of the fauna (huntable animals and birds inclusive) that existed in that land.

4. On 26 August 1993, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Forestry and the Republican Council of the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society issued the Order (No. 669/109/5) “On the Typical Form of Agreements on Hunting Plot Lease” whereby it, together with the Department of Environmental Protection, confirmed the typical form of agreements on hunting plot lease.

It needs to be noted that in the said order (in a typical form of agreements on hunting plot lease), like in the Order (No. 6/35) “On Hunting Plot Lease Agreements” of 22 January 1992 issued by the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture and the form of agreements on hunting plot lease confirmed by it, there were no provisions which would not permit the owner to use respective land lots (hunting plots) for other, not hunting purposes, inter alia, to lease these lots (hunting plots) to other persons so that they could use these lots (hunting plots) not for hunting, but other purposes. In their legal content these “agreements on hunting plot lease” were not agreements on land lot (hunting plots) lease, but agreements on granting the right to hunt in certain hunting plots to a certain person.

5. On 31 August 1993, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 674) “On the Tariffs of Lease of Forests, Fields and Waters” by Item 1 whereof it confirmed tariffs of lease of forests, fields and waters for hunting, while by Item 2 it prescribed that the beginning of the payment for the lease of forests, fields and waters for hunting had to start as from 1 January 1994.

6. On 19 December 1994, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1276) “On Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania” by Item 3.1 of which it recognised, inter alia, the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Government Resolution (No. 397) “On Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 7 June 1993 as no longer valid, and by 1.1 of which it confirmed the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania.

It was established in Item 1 of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania that huntable animals and birds on hunting plots shall be state property. It was established in Item 22 of the regulations that managers of state land must lease hunting plots and that these plots had to be leased for no less than a 10-year period according to a typical agreement (prepared by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and coordinated with the Ministry of Forestry and the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society). It was established in Item 23 of the regulations that land owners can lease the hunting plots or grant the right to use them; under this item, the land owner was permitted to hunt, under established procedure, small huntable fauna in not leased hunting plots that belonged to him. Like in the Provisional Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania that had been in force before, it was established in the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania that hunting plots were only leased to the circles and clubs of hunters which had the status of a legal person (Item 24), also that the priority for lease of hunting plots had to be granted to the hunters’ organisations which had hunted in these plots for a long time (no less than 5 years), and that, as a rule, the formed hunting plot boundaries of the organisations were not to be changed without consent of the lessee (Item 25). Under Item 26 of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, new hunting plots of circles and clubs of hunters had to be formed so that they would constitute continuous, no less than 1000 ha areas of forest, fields, groves, shrubbery and water bodies, while taking account of the territories occupied by the populations of huntable fauna. Under Item 35 of the said regulations, damage inflicted by wild hoofed animals on agricultural crops and forest had to be repaid by the users of the hunting plots who disposed of the production of hunting. In case land owners refused in writing to lease hunting plots for hunting or to permit hunting on them, damage inflicted by wild hoofed animals was not to be repaid (Item 32).

7. On 15 March 1995, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 371) “On a Partial Amendment of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania and Confirmation of the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” by Item 2 of which it confirmed the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania. These rules particularised as to what kinds of animals were categorised as big animals and birds, and which as small huntable fauna, they regulated the granting of the right to hunt, the use of implements of hunting, of hunt dogs and hunt birds, ways and procedure of hunting, use of hunting production and veterinary requirements for hunting production, hunting documents, peculiarities of collective hunting, individual hunting and hunting with hunt birds, the time of hunting, the insured activity linked with hunting, safety conduct during hunting, etc. It was prescribed that the Ministry of Environmental Protection has the right to change, inter alia, the list of huntable fauna and the time of hunting (Item 5).

8. On 6 November 1997, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Wildlife, which went into effect on 28 November 1997. After this law had become effective, the Law on Wildlife Protection and Use adopted as far back as 19 June 1981 became no longer valid (Article 31 of the Law on Wildlife).

Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Law on Wildlife defined wildlife as “vertebrate and invertebrate animals and populations thereof habitually existing in their natural state in freedom”. Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the same law prescribed that wild animals living in freedom may not belong to natural or legal persons by right of ownership. The said provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife differs from the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the Law on Wildlife Protection and Use that wildlife (thus, also fauna that exists in freedom) is state property (Paragraph 1 of Article 3). It needs to be emphasised that Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife should be construed by taking account of what concept of a legal person was established in the then effective Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania: under the then effective Civil Code the state was not a legal person. Thus, the formula “legal persons” of Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife did not include the state. On the other hand, the Law on Wildlife did not expressis verbis consolidate that wild animals that exist in freedom cannot belong to the state by right of ownership, either. However, there are not any preconditions for stating that the legislature, while stipulating that wild animals that exist in freedom cannot belong to natural or legal persons by right of ownership, would seek not to permit the state to be the owner of free wild animals. Such legal regulation should be judged a vague one, as one not establishing expressis verbis whether wild animals (huntable fauna inclusive) belongs to someone by right of ownership, and if it does, then to whom it belongs.

Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 15 of the Law on Wildlife indicated hunting as one of the kinds of wildlife use. Paragraph 1 of Article 16 of the same law defined hunting as “lying in wait, tailing, chasing for the purpose of the catching or shooting of the wild animals designated for a hunting object and also the catching and shooting of wild animals”. Under Paragraph 2 of this article, the laws of the Republic of Lithuania, the Regulations for Hunting in Lithuania and Hunting Rules, which shall be approved by the Government or its authorised institutions, shall establish the types of hunting, procedure for organising such, equipment, terms, safety conduct, veterinary supervision requirements in hunting, and other conditions of organising hunts; under Paragraph 3 of the said article, hunting was permitted only on hunting grounds, excluding those exceptions stipulated by law, while the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania had to establish the procedure of the lease of hunting grounds and use thereof for hunting purposes.

9. Under Paragraph 3 of Article 15 of the Law on Wildlife, the Regulations for the Use of Wild Animals and their norms had to establish the terms, ways, implements and limits of wild animal use. By the Order (No. 200) “On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Wildlife” of 19 October 1998 issued by the Minister of Environment, inter alia, the List of the Wild Animals Permitted to be Used in the Republic of Lithuania was confirmed.

It was established in Item 1 of the List of the Wild Animals Permitted to be Used in the Republic of Lithuania that in the Republic of Lithuania, further to this list, inter alia, hunting is permitted under procedure of laws and other legal acts. The said list listed the kinds of wildlife (mammals, birds, fish, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, soil invertebrates) permitted to be hunted or to be used in other ways defined in this list.

10. On 25 February 1999, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 210) “On the Confirmation of the Amounts of Lease Payment for Hunting Plots in the Land of the Funds of State Forests, Available State Land and of State Internal Waters” by Item 3 whereof it recognised the Government Resolution (No. 674) “On the Tariffs of Rent of Forests, Fields and Waters” of 31 August 1993 (whereby tariffs of lease of forests, fields and waters for hunting had been confirmed) as no longer valid, while by Item 1 it confirmed the amounts of lease payments of hunting plots in the land of the funds of state forests, available state land and of state internal waters. It was established in Item 2.1 of the Government Resolution (No. 210) “On the Confirmation of the Amounts of Lease Payment for Hunting Plots in the Land of the Funds of State Forests, Available State Land and of State Internal Waters” of 25 February 1999 that the Ministry of Environment shall index the amounts as confirmed by this resolution, and in it the indexation procedure was defined.

11. On 14 April 2000, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 19 December 1994 by Article 3 of which it recognised the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Resolution (No. 1276) “On Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania” as no longer valid, while by Item 1 it confirmed new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania. The new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania went into effect on 20 April 2000, save its Item 19 which had to become effective on 1 April 2001; the date of entry into effect of Item 19 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania was postponed till 1 April 2003 by the Government Resolution (No. 354) “On a Partial Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 30 March 2001.

Under Item 2.2 of the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, as of 1 July 2000 Item 2 of the Government Resolution (No. 371) “On a Partial Amendment of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania and Confirmation of the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 15 March 1995 whereby the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania had been confirmed, became no longer valid.

In the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, unlike in those valid before, there were no provisions consolidating expressis verbis that wildlife (huntable fauna inclusive) belongs to anyone by right of ownership. It has been mentioned that the Law on Wildlife (which was in force then) did not establish expressis verbis whether wildlife (huntable fauna inclusive) belonged to someone by right of ownership, and if it did, then to whom it belonged.

Alongside, it needs to be noted that Item 6 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania prescribed that the right of use of huntable animals on a concrete plot of land belongs to the owner of that land. Under Items 7 and 23 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, the owner of the land could either make use of the right of use of huntable animals, or to transfer this right to other natural or legal persons according to an agreement on hunting plot lease, or not to make use of this right. It was prohibited to hunt on hunting plots which belonged to other persons if one did not enjoy the right to use the hunting plots which was transferred by an agreement on hunting plot lease (Item 23).

The Third Section of Item 1 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania defined hunting plots as “plots of land, forest and of water bodies in which huntable animals live or can live and reproduce and in which it is permitted to hunt them, save the plots in which hunting is prohibited, provided laws do not provide otherwise”.

In Item 24 of the said regulations it was provided that hunting plots are leased by the owners and managers of the land, also that land lease for other purposes does not grant the right to use them for hunting, if one does not enjoy the right to use the hunting plots which was transferred by an agreement on hunting plot lease. The managers of state-owned land (save certain exceptions) were obligated to lease the hunting plots that were on state-owned land; these lease agreements had to be concluded for no less than a 10-year period (Item 25). Upon the expiry of the agreement on state land lease for hunting, it had to be renewed with the lessee who had fulfilled all terms of the agreement (Item 29).

Under Item 25 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, private land was used for hunting upon a mutual agreement of the parties, by concluding a written agreement on hunting plot lease. Thus, it was prescribed that upon change of the owner of the land plot, the lease agreement is effective in regard of the new owner (Item 24).

Within 20 days of their conclusion, the agreements on hunting plot lease had to be filed with the district agency of the Regional Department for Environmental Protection for registration, while a decision regarding the registration of these agreements had to be taken within 10 working days (Items 33, 34 and 36).

The new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania also regulated sizes of hunting plot units. A formed collective unit of hunting plots had to be of continuous land plot of no less than 1000 ha in size; however, this requirement could be not applied to hunting plots of less than 1000 ha which were on state land, provided they had been leased prior to the entry of these regulations into effect, but for no longer than it was provided for in the agreement on hunting plot lease (Item 20).

Under Item 21 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, continuous plots of land that belonged to one or several private persons could constitute an individual hunting plot unit of no less than 100 ha, but an individual hunting plot unit could not be bigger than 500 ha in size, save the case where the user of the hunting plot was the land owner himself.

Hunting plot units had to be registered with the district agency of the Regional Department for Environmental Protection (Items 37, 38, and 39).

In the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania it was also prescribed that the owners of hunting plots who owned plots which were less than the minimum area of individual hunting plot unit, and who have not leased these plots to other persons for hunting, have the right to hunt small fauna in the land under procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania (Item 22).

As mentioned before, Item 19 of the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania went into effect of 1 April 2003. Under this item hunting was permitted only in registered hunting plot units, which were formed according to projects of land and forest exploitation, documents confirming the right of ownership and agreements on hunting plot lease (documents, according to which schemes and descriptions of boundaries of hunting plot units are formed), save the case where the owners of hunting plots, who own plots that are less than the minimum area of an individual hunting plot and who have not leased these hunting plots to other persons, have the right to hunt small fauna on their own land under procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania.

Under the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, damage inflicted by hunted animals on the owners of agricultural crops, forest and of hydro-technical equipment on the entire territory of the hunting plot unit had to be repaid under established procedure by users of the hunting plots, provided the hunting of the animals that inflicted the damage was not prohibited; if the hunting of the animals that inflicted the damage was prohibited, this damage had to be repaid under procedure established by the Government (Item 41).

12. On 27 June 2000, the Minister of Environment issued the Order (No. 258) “On the Confirmation of the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” by Item 1 whereof he confirmed the Rules of Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania. The said rules have been amended more than once.

13. On 1 September 2000, the Minister of Environment issued the Order (No. 358) “On the Confirmation of the Typical Form of Agreements on Lease of Hunting Plots That Are in State-owned Land” by Item 2.2 whereof he recognised the Order (No. 6/35) “On Hunting Plot Lease Agreements” of 22 January 1992 (whereby the form of agreements on hunting plot lease had been confirmed) issued by the Ministry of Forestry and the Ministry of Agriculture as no longer valid, and by Item 2.1 he recognised the Order (No. 669/109/5) “On the Typical Form of Agreements on Hunting Plot Lease” of 26 August 1993 (whereby it, together with the Department of Environmental Protection, had confirmed the typical form of agreements on hunting plot lease) which had been issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Forestry and the Republican Council of the Lithuanian Hunters and Fishers Society, as no longer valid. By Item 1 of the Order (No. 358) “On the Confirmation of the Typical Form of Agreements on Lease of Hunting Plots That Are in State-owned Land” of 1 September 2000 issued by the Minister of Environment the typical form of agreements on lease of hunting plots that are in state-owned land was confirmed.

14. On 1 October 2001, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1178) “On a Partial Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000”, which went into effect on 4 October 2001.

By Item 1.4 of the Government Resolution (No. 1178) “On a Partial Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 1 October 2001 Item 21 (wording of 14 April 2000) of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania was recognised as no longer valid, which used to consolidate the right of private persons to form and register individual hunting plot units which are no less than 100 ha, but no more than 500 ha in size (save the exception established before, where the user of the hunting plots was the owner of the land himself); on the other hand, although said Item 21 (wording of 14 April 2000) was recognised as no longer valid, Item 37 of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania was left to be valid, whereby, inter alia, a hunting plot unit was regarded as a formed one and an application of the established form concerning its registering could be filed with the district agency of the Regional Department for Environmental Protection, if the common size of the hunting plots met the requirement of their minimum size, which were specified in Item 21 (which was recognised as no longer valid then).

By Item 1.3 of the Government Resolution (No. 1178) “On a Partial Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 1 October 2001 Item 20 (wording of 14 April 2000) of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, whereby a formed collective hunting plot unit had to constitute no less than a 1000 ha continuous plot of land, was amended; it was prescribed that the users of hunting plots who formed hunting plot units under procedure established in the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, which were smaller than those specified in Item 1.3 of this resolution (i.e. which were smaller than 1000 ha), were permitted to continue hunting activity on these plots until 1 April 2003, if the laws did not provide otherwise (Item 2). In this context, it needs to be mentioned that the formula “are permitted to continue hunting activity on these plots until 1 April 2003, if the laws do not provide otherwise” means that hunting activity could be continued in corresponding hunting plots until the specified term only if a different term (that of either before or after 1 April 2003) was not established by law.

15. On 18 July 2000, the Seimas adopted the Law on Confirmation, Entry into Effect and Implementation of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, by Item 1 of Article 51 whereof the until then valid Civil Code (with subsequent amendments and supplements) was recognised as no longer valid, while by Article 1 whereof the new Civil Code was confirmed. It is established in Article 2 of this law that the Civil Code shall become effective as from 1 July 2001, save the norms of this code to which other terms of entry into effect are established by law.

Under Paragraph 1 of Article 2.35 of the new Civil Code, the state and municipalities are legal persons.

A different concept of a legal person entrenched in the new civil Code, if compared with the legal regulation established in the laws valid until then, where the state is also recognised as a legal person, did not change the content of Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife under which wild animals that exist in freedom cannot belong to natural or legal persons by right of ownership. Upon the entry of the new Civil Code into effect, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife had to be continued to be construed (by applying, inter alia, the teleological method of construction of law and that of the intention of the legislature, i.e. by taking account of the purpose of the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Law on Wildlife and the fact that the legislature, while stipulating that wild animals that exist in freedom cannot belong by right of ownership to natural and legal persons, did not, in general, attempt not to permit the state to be the owner of wild animals that exist in freedom) as not meaning that wild animals cannot, in general, belong to the state by right of ownership. On the other hand, as mentioned before, the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Government Resolution (No. 1276) “On Hunting Management in the Republic of Lithuania” of 19 December 1994, under which huntable animals and birds on hunting plots shall be state property, were recognised as no longer valid by the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, while the new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the latter government resolution did not contain the provisions establishing expressis verbis that wild animals (huntable fauna inclusive) belongs to someone by right of ownership. Thus, neither laws, nor substatutory legal acts that regulated hunting relations and those linked therewith did not expressis verbis establish for some time whether wild animals (huntable fauna inclusive) belonged to someone by right of ownership, and if it did, then to whom it belonged.

16. On 11 December 2001, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife, by Article 1 whereof it amended the Law on Wildlife (wording of 6 November 1997) and set it forth in a new wording. The Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife, thus, also the Law on Wildlife of the new wording (11 December 2001), went into effect on 29 December 2001, save Paragraph 2 of Article 13, which went into effect as from 1 April 2003 (Article 2 of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife).

Paragraph 5 of Article 2 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001) denotes wildlife as “entirety of invertebrate and vertebrate wild fauna existing either in freedom or in captivity”; Paragraph 4 of the same article defines wild fauna existing in freedom as “wild fauna the freedom of which has not been limited by humans”. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001), wild fauna existing in freedom belongs to the state, while Paragraph 3 of Article 3 provides that “the wild animals which were held in captivity and later escaped, and whose owner does not capture them within one month of the day of escaping, are regarded as wild animals existing in freedom and belonging to the state by right of ownership, save the cases when escaped wild animals must be captured according to the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 7 and Paragraph 3 of Article 16 of the Law.”

Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001) indicated hunting as one of the types of use of wildlife resources (one of the ways of the taking of wild animals from their habitats). In Paragraph 1 of Article 13 of the same law hunting is defined as “an activity with the purpose of taking huntable animals that exist in freedom by means of tracing, lying in wait, tailing, chasing, shooting or capturing”. Under Paragraph 9 of Article 2 of the same law, huntable animals are “wild animals which are categorised by the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania as huntable ones due to their value and by taking account of hunting traditions of this country”. Hunting is only permitted to persons who has a hunter’s ticket or an analogous document issued in foreign countries and other documents established in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania (Paragraph 1 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001)). Hunting had to be regulated by the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Government, the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Ministry of Environment and other legal acts (Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001)). Article 12 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001) provides for an opportunity to establish limitations and prohibitions on the use of wildlife resources in protected territories.

The Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001) was amended by the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending Articles 4, 10 and 13 of the Law on Wildlife, which was adopted by the Seimas on 19 September 2002, the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending Articles 4, 8, 10 and 24 of the Law on Wildlife, which was adopted by the Seimas on 10 June 2003, and the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending Articles 2, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 20 of the Law on Wildlife, which was adopted by the Seimas on 14 April 2005. By means of the first law, which went into effect on 4 October 2002, Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001) was amended; it was established in Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 19 September 2002) that hunting is regulated by the Law on Hunting, the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Ministry of Environment and other legal acts; therefore, the amended Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife (wording of 19 September 2002) no longer provided that the Government had to confirm the Regulations for Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania.

17. On 15 July 2002, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1132) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” whereby it amended some items (with subsequent amendments) of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000 and established provisional (valid till 1 October 2002) legal regulation of corresponding legal relations (Items 1 and 3), while by Item 5 it recognised that as from 1 October 2002, the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000 (with subsequent amendments) shall no longer be valid. The Government Resolution (No. 1132) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 15 July 2002 went into effect on 20 July 2002.

Item 23 (wording of 15 July 2002) of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania established, inter alia, that regional departments for environmental protection of the Ministry of Environment grant the right to hunt in concrete hunting plots under procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania as confirmed by the Ministry of Environment by issuing permits to use resources of wildlife, which exists in freedom, for hunting, that these permits are issued to lessees of hunting plots, forestry offices (in commercial hunting plots) or owners of hunting plots, also that a permit to use resources of wildlife, which exists in freedom, for hunting in concrete hunting plots may be issued only to one user of the hunting plots. It was established in Item 2 of the Government Resolution (No. 1132) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 15 July 2002 that “permits to use resources of wildlife, which exists in freedom, for hunting, must be issued to lessees of hunting plots while taking account of sizes of the hunting plots that they are leasing , the agreements on lease of which have been registered in district agencies of the regional departments for environmental protection of the Ministry of environment prior to entry into effect of this Resolution”; it was prescribed that this item was valid till 1 October 2002 (Item 3).

18. The said amendment (by the Law on Amending Articles 4, 10 and 13 of the Law on Wildlife, which was adopted by the Seimas on 19 September 2002) to Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Wildlife, also establishment of the provisional legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith as well as recognition (by the Government Resolution (No. 1132) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 425) ‘On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000” of 15 July 2002) that, as from 1 October 2002, the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania of 14 April 2000 (with subsequent amendments) shall no longer be valid, should be linked with entry into effect of the Law on Hunting, which was adopted by the Seimas on 20 June 2002, on 1 October 2002 (save the indicated exceptions).

19. Summing up the legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith, which is consolidated in the laws and governmental legal acts which were valid from 1992 till 2002 (from the entry into effect of the Constitution till the entry into effect of the Law on Hunting (most of its provisions)), it should be held that:

19.1. In these legal acts wildlife was treated as a value which must be safeguarded and resources of which must be used in a rational way. Hunting was treated as one of the means to secure protection of wildlife and its rational use and, alongside, as pastime activity. Hunting activity was limited; the state (its institutions) and municipal institutions were empowered to control this activity. Liability was established for illegal hunting and other violations of hunting procedure, which were specified in laws.

19.2. During the period in question hunting relations and those linked therewith were virtually regulated by substatutory legal act, inter alia, by government resolution. Laws regulated these relations only in certain aspects.

19.3. It needs to be noted that although some laws and governmental legal acts valid at that period (or during some of its segments) which regulated relations linked with the use of wildlife (huntable fauna inclusive) did not establish expressis verbis whether wild animals (huntable fauna inclusive) belong or can belong to anyone by right of ownership, and if they do, then to whom they belong, the entire legal regulation established in legal acts of the period in question, which regulated hunting relations and those linked therewith, was based on the principle provision that wildlife (huntable fauna inclusive) is state property. In this context, it should be mentioned that the legal acts valid at the beginning (November 1992) and at the end (September 2002) of the period in question expressis verbis established the state ownership over wild animals that existed in freedom (huntable fauna inclusive). Besides, according to legal acts of that period, wild animals that existed in freedom (huntable fauna inclusive) could not belong to any other legal or natural person by right of ownership, but only to the state.

19.4. In the legal acts valid at the period in question the right of hunting was linked with the right of ownership of water bodies (in which hunting plots were being formed); it was permitted to hunt in the land that belonged to the owner only upon his consent; in case there was no such consent (if one did not enjoy the right to use the hunting plots, which had to be transferred by the so-called agreement on hunting plot lease), it was prohibited to hunt in hunting plots that belonged to other persons. Alongside, it should be held that for some time in some aspects the legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith was distanced from the authentic hunting tradition that had been formed in Lithuania and consolidated in its legal acts (however, denied by the Soviet government), according to which the owners could form hunting plots out of their lands, while state institutions could form them only from state lands, forests and waters, but one was gradually returning to this tradition. For example, at the beginning of the period in question the owners of private lots of land, forests, and water bodies had the right to lease the hunting plots to organisations of hunters (circles or clubs of hunters which had the status of a legal person) and to other users, without changing, as a rule, the boundaries of hunting units which “had been formed long before” and by giving priority to the collectives of hunters that had hunted in these plots “for a long time”; however, the owners of lots of land, forests, and water bodies had the right to hunt only small fauna in the hunting plots that belonged to them and which were not leased to anyone. The situation became different after the entry into effect of the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000 by which new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania (which were valid (with subsequent amendments) till 1 October 2002) were confirmed: one began to base the legal regulation upon provisions that the right of use of huntable animals on a certain land plot belongs to the owner of this land and that the owner of the land can make use of the right to use huntable animals either himself, or to transfer it to other natural or legal persons according to an agreement on hunting plot lease, or not to make use of this right. Thus, one abandoned the principle that only circles or clubs of hunters, i.e. organisations of hunters, had the right to lease hunting plots (from the owner).

Thus, at the end of the period in question hunting plots were rented under lease agreements either from land owners or the state, or the owner could form hunting plots on his own land provided he had not rented it to other persons, who had the right to hunt small fauna, for hunting. Managers of state land were obligated to lease the hunting plots which were on state land for no shorter than a 10-year period, while private land could be leased by mutual agreement of the parties by concluding a written agreement on hunting plot lease (also for a shorter than a 10-year period). Thus, hunting plot units had to be formed on the basis of agreements on hunting plot lease, which were concluded between the lessor (the land owner or manager of the state land) and the lessee (natural or legal person) who used the land for hunting.

19.5. During the period in question, legal acts consolidated the legal regulation whereby hunting was permitted only in certain formed hunting plot units. By its acts the Government would establish sizes of hunting plot units, which were subject to change—they would be increased (however, exceptions to the general rule used to be established as well, where the requirement of the minimum size of a hunting plot unit did not use to be applied). In the 2000–2001 legal acts an opportunity was established to form collective hunting plot units, including continuous land plot units of no less than 1000 ha in size and individual hunting plot units from 100 till 500 ha in size (save the case when the user of the hunting plots was the owner of that land); one of several private persons had the right to form and register individual hunting plot units.

It is clear from the case material that under such legal regulation certain individual hunting plot units were formed, registered and used for hunting.

However, the legal regulation under which the said individual hunting plots had been formed and registered (and began to be used for hunting) was changed. After a certain government resolution (adopted on 14 April 2000) consolidated the right of private persons to form collective and individual hunting plot units (provided hunting plot units complied with the established area requirements), by another government resolution (adopted shortly after that, on 1 October 2001) only one of the formerly established minimum sizes, 1000 hectares, of a hunting plot unit was left and it was prescribed that users of hunting plots after they have formed the hunting plots under established procedure which were smaller than the minimum size (1000 hectares), may continue hunting activity in these plots till 1 April 2003 provided the laws did not provide otherwise. It was mentioned that it meant that hunting activity could be continued in corresponding hunting plots until the specified term only if a different term (also that which could be before 1 April 2003) had not been established by law.

19.6. The legal acts of the period in question also consolidated a principle that damage inflicted upon the land owners by hunted wild animals had to be repaid by the users of the hunting plots, provided the owners had not prohibited hunting in the land lots that belonged to them. In case the land owners had refused to permit hunting on the lots that belonged to them, the damage inflicted upon them by the hunted animals did not have to be repaid. On the other hand, if legal acts had prohibited hunting the hunted animals which inflicted the damage, the damage had to be repaid by the state under established procedure.

20. Summing up the legal regulation of hunting relations and those linked therewith, which was established during the period in question, i.e. from 1992 till 2002, in the constitutional justice case at issue, it should also be held that the legal acts of that time created certain expectations to certain subjects of the regulated hunting relations, who made use of the right established by these legal acts, i.e. the owners of land, forests and water bodies, who, on the basis of valid legal acts, formed hunting plot units or concluded agreements on hunting plot lease, by means of which land lots, forests, water bodies were leased to other persons (users), who acquired the right to use the hunting plots under such agreements.

20.1. The owners of private land, forests and water bodies, who had concluded agreements on hunting plot lease with other persons (users of these plots) under valid legal acts, could reasonably expect that these agreements would be kept during the whole term provided therein and that the state (its institutions) would not take any measures which would prevent the lessees from carrying out their duties under these agreements.

20.2. Natural and legal persons (users of hunting plots), who had, under valid legal acts, rented land, forests and water bodies designed for hunting, could reasonably expect that during the entire term provided in these agreements they would be able to use the land, forests and water bodies rented for hunting and that the state (its institutions) would not take any measures which would prevent them from using their rights provided for in these agreements.

20.3. The persons who had formed individual hunting plot units under valid legal acts could reasonably expect that they would be able to use these hunting plot units for hunting until the occurrence of the circumstances established in laws due to which any further use of these hunting plot units would reasonably become impossible. This expectation emerged from the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Confirmation of the Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, a governmental legal act, whereby new Regulations for Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania were confirmed, and the circumstance that the said persons made use of the right acquired under this legal act to form and register individual hunting plot units.

VI

1. It has been mentioned that on 20 June 2002 the Seimas adopted the Law on Hunting, which (save certain exceptions) became effective on 1 October 2002. Some articles of the Law on Hunting (their parts, items) were amended by the Law on Amending Articles 6, 12, and 18 of the Law on Hunting, which was adopted by the Seimas on 10 June 2003.

It should be mentioned that the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the same law, the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the same law, and the provision “The damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in the land lots whose owner has prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 7 of Article 18, which are impugned by the petitioner, have not been amended.

2. It has been mentioned that in 1992 to 2002 (from the date of coming into effect of the Constitution till the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting (majority of provisions thereof)) the relations of hunting were virtually regulated by substatutory legal act, inter alia, by government resolution, and that laws regulated these relations only in certain aspects.

It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that by the Law on Hunting one strived to systemically regulate relations of hunting and those linked therewith and to create the legal basis for detailing and specifying the legal regulation of these relations in substatutory legal acts.

The Constitutional Court has held that Items 2 and 7 of Article 94 of the Constitution, stipulating that the Government shall implement laws and that it shall discharge other duties prescribed to it by the Constitution and other laws, should be interpreted as the ones establishing a duty to the Government to supplement its previously adopted acts so that they become in conformity with subsequently adopted laws or to repeal its previously adopted acts in case the legal norms established therein are in conflict with those of the law (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 5 April 2000 and 15 May 2001).

Thus, it should be held that after the Law on Hunting had come into effect, all the substatutory legal acts (government resolutions inclusive) had to be harmonised and not be in conflict with it.

3. The provisions (impugned by the petitioner) of Paragraph 2 of Article 7, Paragraph 1 of Article 8, Paragraph 2 of Article 13, and Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting are systemically related to other provisions of Articles 7, 8, 13, and 18 of the Law on Hunting.

3.1. It is established in Article 7 “Hunting Plots and Territories, Wherein Hunting is Prohibited” of the Law on Hunting:

1. All the territories shall be considered hunting plots and hunting shall be permitted therein, save the territories specified in Paragraph 2 of this article.

2. Hunting shall be prohibited in:

1) cemeteries, urban territories, national parks located in national reservations and biospheric reservations, minor reservations and other territories where it is prohibited to hunt by law and other legal act;

2) land lots located in the hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law;

3) other territories, in which one may not hunt due to local conditions and which are specified by the institutions forming hunting plot units upon the procedure set forth in Article 8 of the Law.

3. The abundance of huntable animals in the territories listed in Paragraph 2 of this article shall be regulated upon the procedure established by the Ministry of Environment. If a threat related to zymotic diseases, which are spread by huntable animals, originates and compulsory instructions concerning the regulation of abundance of these animals should be fulfilled in the land lot, wherein its owner has prohibited hunting, the implementation of these instructions shall be organised by the owner of the land lot.”

3.2. It is established in Article 8 “Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries” of the Law on Hunting:

1. Hunting plot units are formed and their boundaries are changed according to the principles of hunting, by ensuring, alongside, rational management of the populations of huntable animals, sufficient protection of huntable animals and orderly and safe their hunt, as well as by ensuring that a more grave damage inflicted by huntable animals to the objects of economic activity of a person is avoided. A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha area of continuous hunting plots, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture. The criteria of integrity of the hunting plot unit and requirements for the establishment of the boundaries of hunting plot units are approved by the Ministry of Environment in accordance with the following principles:

1) boundaries of hunting plot units must match clear natural or artificial margins, they must be in prominent places, however, they may not be set in the outskirts of a wood;

2) roads, railway sections, electricity lines, natural and artificial water streams and other similar objects, if their shape, size and constructions or equipment located in them does not prevent from organising a hunting, do not disturb the integrity of hunting plot units, however, they may not be considered to be a longitudinal junction between separate distant parts of the hunting plot unit.

2. Hunting plot units shall be formed and their boundaries shall be changed in the following cases:

1) when they are formed in the hunting plots, in which, pursuant to the requirements of this Law, no hunting plot units are formed or where the users of the existing hunting plots refused using them;

2) by separating or joining the existing hunting plot units, where such formation is performed upon the agreement of users of hunting plots and for the purposes established in Paragraph 1 of this article;

3) when, upon the establishment of new protected territories according to the Law on Protected Territories or upon changing the border of existing protected territories wherein it is prohibited to hunt, one must provide more details about boundaries or territories of hunting plot unit, wherein one permits hunting;

4) upon the receiving of a respective proposal of the persons drafting a project on hunting administration.

3. Projects on forming hunting plot units and changing their boundaries shall be prepared in every municipality by the commission established by the mayor of respective municipality, which shall comprise the representatives of administration of the municipality, institutions supervising the environmental protection, land administration, and public forests, public organisations of hunters that unite clubs and groups of hunters, as well as self-government organisations of land and forest owners. The regulations of activity of the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries shall be approved by the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture.

4. Phases of the forming of a hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries:

1) submitting a proposal on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries;

2) the collecting of legal information and the preparation of graphic and ecological data about the hunting plot unit which is proposed to be formed or changed;

3) the publication of information about a drafted preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries in the national and local press;

4) the approval of the project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries.

5. Proposals on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries may be submitted to the commission specified in Paragraph 3 of this article by:

1) the Ministry of Environment or institutions authorised by it—in cases related to scientific and educational hunting plot units and professional hunting plot units, as well as hunting plot units of common use, if a respective proposal has been received from the persons drafting a project on hunting administration;

2) the Ministry of Agriculture or institutions authorised by it—in cases related to hunting plot units within the territory of fishing ponds;

3) private or legal persons—in cases related to hunting plot units of common use.

6. Hunting plot units may be formed and their boundaries may be changed upon the initiative of the commission specified in Paragraph 3 of this article, when it is necessary in order to ensure the requirements set forth in Paragraph 1 of this article.

7. Professional hunting plot units as well as scientific and educational hunting plot units shall be formed in the territories, in which the state owned land exceeds 50 percent, and in other territories, which are necessary in order to achieve the objectives set from the point of view of hunting administration.

8. Fishing ponds, in which hunting is developed under certain restrictions, shall comprise industrial fishing ponds, the territories and area of which are approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, as well as other fishing ponds, a continuous territory of which is at least 150 ha. In such territories, upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture, special hunting plot units may be formed, in which users of fishing ponds, upon the procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania, shall regulate the abundance of fish eating birds and hunt small huntable animals.

9. Having drafted a preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries, the commission specified in Paragraph 3 of this article shall announce this fact in a national and local press and shall set a 1 month period, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements, and other concerned private or legal persons—proposals concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries. Such written proposals and requirements shall be submitted to the commission set forth in Paragraph 3 of this article directly or through wards, in which the land lots owned by the persons who submit proposals or requirements are located. When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry. The commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of this article shall mark in the plan of the hunting plot unit the territories, in which hunting is prohibited according to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law until the expiry of the period specified by the persons who set these requirements. Fees for the use of resources of huntable animals in the hunting plot unit shall be reduced in proportion to the size of such territories, still the establishment of these restrictions shall not disturb the integrity of hunting plot units.

10. Upon the expiry of the period established in Paragraph 9 of this article, the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, after examining the received requirements or proposals and assessing whether they are in compliance with the requirements provided for in Paragraph 1 of this article, shall decide whether it is expedient to take account of the received proposals, it shall amend, if needed, the project on the forming of the hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and within 1 month submit this project for approval to the head of a respective county. The plan of the hunting plot unit with marked territories, in which one permits hunting and in which one prohibits hunting, as well as an annex concerning the size of hunting plot units and their distribution according to suitability for inhabitation and reproduction of huntable animals, shall constitute an inseparable part of the forming of a hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries.

11. Projects on the forming of hunting plot units, which are proposed to be established within a territory of more than one municipality, shall be drafted together with respective commissions of other municipalities. If the boundaries of one hunting plot unit exceed the boundaries of one county, the project on forming such hunting plot unit must be approved in the counties, to the territory of which it intrudes.”

3.3. It is established in Article 13 “Rights of the Owners of Land Lots, Related to Formation of Hunting plot units and Use of Resources of Huntable Animals in Them” of the Law on Hunting:

1. Upon agreement of the users of hunting plots, the owner of a private land lot, who has a hunter’s licence, shall have the right to hunt, according to the procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania, together with users of hunting plots in all hunting plot units, into which the land lot owned by him intrudes.

2. The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting. In case a project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries is being prepared, he must inform the commission acting upon the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law about it in writing within the period set forth in Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of this Law.

3. The owner of a land lot or several communicating land lots, in which hunting is not prohibited and total area of which exceeds 1000 ha, may submit to the commission provided for in Article 8 of this Law a petition requesting it to recognise these lots as a hunting plot unit which meets the requirements established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law. If the land plots are recognised as a hunting plot unit, and formation of such hunting plot does not disturb the neighbouring hunting plot units, and, according to the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 10, permission to use resources of huntable animals in the hunting plot unit may be issued to their owner, a project on the forming of hunting plot units is made and approved pursuant to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, and a permission to use resources of huntable animals in hunting plot unit is issued without tender, which is provided for in Paragraph 2 of Article 10.”

3.4. It is established in Article 18 “Recovery of Damage Inflicted by Huntable Animals” of the Law on Hunting:

1. Damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies shall be recovered, in cases provided for in Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this article, by the users of hunting plots or, on behalf of the state, the institutions specified in Paragraph 4 of this article, unless it is proven that damage occurred due to force majeure circumstances, intentional actions of the aggrieved person or other actions indicated in Article 6.253 of the Civil Code.

2. Damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom shall be calculated by a commission on damage assessment, which shall be formed by a mayor of respective municipality, pursuant to the Method of Calculation of Damage Inflicted by Huntable Animals to Agricultural Crops and Forest which was approved by the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture.

3. Damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, where it is related to the damage to agricultural crops, forests and hydro-technical equipment, shall be recovered by the user of hunting plots in the following cases:

1) damage on agricultural crops or hydro-technical equipment is inflicted by hoofed animals or beavers, where their hunting is not prohibited during the whole year;

2) hoofed animals and beavers inflict damage on forest, if their hunting is not prohibited for the whole year, if a part of severely damaged or destroyed types of trees meant for specific purpose in young forests, calculated pursuant to the Method of Calculation of Damage Inflicted by Huntable Animals to Agricultural Crops and Forest approved by the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, exceeds 20 percent or a part of severely damaged perspective trees meant for specific purpose in elder forests exceeds 10 percent, and if limits of hunt of animals, whose hunt is limited, are not achieved.

4. Upon the procedure established in the Law on Program of Promotion of Environment Protection and Regulations of the Municipal Environment Protection Fund, institutions that are specified in these legal acts, on behalf of the state, shall recover damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, where the damage to agricultural crops, forests and hydro-technical equipment was made by huntable animals, the hunting of which is prohibited for the whole year.

5. The owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, must immediately inform a respective ward about damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom by sending written petition on assessment and recovery of damage no later than within 3 working days from the date of noticing the damage. Upon the receiving of a notice about the inflicted damage, the administrator of the ward must on the same day inform the user of the hunting plots and within 7 days and organise an assessment of the damage, save the cases where the size of damage, due to its type, may be assessed only upon the expiry of 7 days period.

6. Recovery of funds for the damage inflicted by huntable animals that exists in freedom must be paid within one month from the date of calculation of the size of damage. The party which does not agree with the calculated size of damage shall have the right to appeal to court against the decision of commission on assessment of damage upon the procedure established by the Law on Administrative Proceedings.

7. Damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in land lots, the owner of which has prohibited hunting according to the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law.

8. Damage inflicted by huntable animals to owners, administrators and users of land lots, whose crops were damaged, shall be recovered, if the owner of agricultural crops grows the crops pursuant to agro-technical requirements and applies measures of protection of crops from damage that is inflicted by huntable animals, which are approved in the Method of Calculation of Damage Inflicted by Huntable Animals to Agricultural Crops and Forest.”

After amending Paragraph 2 of Article 18 (wording of 20 June 2002) of the Law on Hunting made by Article 3 of the Law on Amending Articles 6, 12, and 18 of the Law on Hunting, which was passed by the Seimas on 10 June 2003 and became effective on 1 January 2004, this paragraph was set forth as follows:

Upon the procedure established in the Law on Program of Promotion of Environment Protection and the Law on Special Municipal Program of Promotion of Environment Protection, institutions that are specified in these legal acts, on behalf of the state, shall recover damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, where the damage to agricultural crops, forests and hydro-technical equipment was made by huntable animals, the hunting of which is prohibited for the whole year.”

4. The impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting related to the prohibition on hunting, the size of hunting plot units and the non-recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals are also linked with provisions set forth in other articles of the Law on Hunting, which regulate in various aspects the relations of hunting and those linked therewith, in particular the provisions that consolidate the notion the huntable animals and establish their legal status (inter alia, their relation with the institute of ownership), the right to use resources of huntable animals that consolidate the notion of the hunting plot unit, establish rights and duties of users of hunting plots, as well as rights of owners of land lots located in hunting plots, etc.

4.1. In Paragraph 8 of Article 2 of the Law on Hunting, hunting is defined as “protection of huntable animals and their rational use in accordance with this Law, other legal acts regulating the hunting, and by paying heed to the ecological conditions of the hunting plots, ethical norms and traditions of the national hunting culture”; in Paragraph 9 of this article hunt is defined as “type of use of resources of wildlife, when one strives to use resources of huntable animals that exist in freedom by way of following, waiting, tracking, shooting or catching”; in Paragraph 7 of this article huntable animals are defined as “wild animals, who are considered in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania to be huntable due to values based on public and personal objectives and having taken account of traditions of national culture of hunting.”

It is established in Article 3 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, that huntable animals that exist in freedom belong to the state by right of ownership (Paragraph 1), that huntable animals that exist in freedom, who were caught or shot in accordance with this Law or other legal acts, become the ownership of user of the hunting plots that has caught or shot them, save the hunting trophies which belong by right of ownership to the person who has huntable the huntable animal (Paragraph 2), as well as that huntable animals that exist in captivity belong by right of ownership to private or legal person, who has purchased them (Paragraph 3).

On the other hand, pursuant to Paragraph 7 of Article 2 of the Law on Hunting, huntable animals are subjects to limited civil turnover.

4.2. It has been mentioned that according to Paragraph 7 of Article 2 of the Law on Hunting, huntable animals are wild animals that “are considered in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania to be huntable due to values based on public and personal objectives and having taken account of traditions of national culture of hunting”, and according to Item 1 of Paragraph 1 of Article 11 (wording of 11 December 2001) of the Law on Wildlife, hunting is one of the types of use of resources of wildlife. The right of use of resources of huntable animals that is entrenched in the Law on Hunting, comprises, inter alia, the right to hunt (or the hunting right), which is consolidated in legal acts that were in force prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting as well.

According to the Law on Hunting, the right to use resources of huntable animals that exist in freedom is granted by environmental protection departments for the regions at the Ministry of Environment, by issuing a permission to use resources of huntable animals in hunting plot units (Paragraph 1 of Article 4). In homesteads and non-residential buildings and their pertinent, owners, administrators and users of these objects have the right, without paying heed of the terms of hunting specified in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania, by applying permissible measures of catching, which are provided for in these rules, for catching and taking raptorial huntable animals and “crow” type birds of the species for which the above-mentioned rules set a permissible term of hunting; this activity shall not be considered hunting and a person engaged in it has no obligation to be hunter (Paragraph 3 of Article 4).

Permission to use resources of huntable animals in a particular hunting plot unit is issued to private or legal persons, who meet requirements established in the Law on Hunting, by environmental protection departments for the regions at the Ministry of Environment upon the procedure established by the Ministry of Environment, by organising a tender on issuance of permission to use resources of huntable animals in the hunting plot unit (save the specified cases) (Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 10). Permission to use resources of huntable animals in the hunting plot unit is issued only to one user of hunting plot units for the period of at least 10 years (Paragraph 3 of Article 10). Upon the expiry of the period of the permission to use resources of huntable animals in hunting plot unit for which it was issued, the permission may be extended in cases where the recipient of the permission duly performed all the conditions specified therein and, upon the expiry of the permission, within the period of 2 months submitted a petition requesting the extension of the period of the validity thereof (Paragraph 5 of Article 10). In Article 11 of the Law on Hunting one establishes the bases of the expiry of the permission to use resources of huntable animals in a hunting plot unit (Paragraph 1), as well as bases for annulment of the permission to use resources of huntable animals in a hunting plot unit (Paragraph 2).

5. The impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting related to the prohibition on hunting, the size of hunting plot units and the non-recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals are also linked with the provisions of the Law on Hunting which are aimed at ensuring a transition from relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on former legal regulation, to relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on the legal regulation established by the Law on Hunting. These provisions are set forth in Articles 22 and 23 of the Law on Hunting.

5.1. It is established in Article 22 “Implementation of Articles 8 and 10 of this Law” of the Law on Hunting:

1. The Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, specified in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, must be established in the indicated manner in each municipality no later than within 2 months from the date of coming into effect of this Law.

2. The users of hunting plots, who used hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law and who used them without violating requirements of legal acts, until 1 April 2003 shall submit petitions to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, and hunting plots used by them shall be recognised hunting plot units and permissions to hunt resources of huntable animals that exist in them shall be issued while following the continuity of use of hunting plots, and in accordance with the procedure established in this article.

3. The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following:

1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with the owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive;

2) documents attesting the allocation of hunting plots located in a state-owned territory (only in case of professional hunting plots and plots for scientific and educational hunting);

3) written minutes of approval of boundaries of hunting plots by the users of all communicating hunting plots, if any were made, according to which one approves factual boundaries of hunting plot units, or, on the basis of these minutes, the users of communicating hunting plots correct boundaries of hunting plots in order to achieve objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law;

4) other documents attesting the lawful use of hunting plots.

4. The commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, when adopting decision on territories that are proposed to be included in hunting plot unit, if no documents specified in Item 1 of Paragraph 3 of this article related to the use of them are submitted, or not all documents are submitted, shall take into account proposals made in the documents that are indicated in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article or set boundaries of hunting plot unit while taking account of the objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law.

5. The boundaries of hunting plots, which were in use prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law in accordance with the documents specified in Paragraph 3 of this article and which were in compliance with the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law, may not be changed, save the cases where users of communicating hunting plot units, while seeking the objectives of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, by written minutes of the approval of the boundaries of hunting plots request the establishing of different boundaries.

6. Users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha may agree with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots, by consolidating this fact in the document specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article and submitting a joint petition to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law on recognising the hunting plots as a hunting plot unit. In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission.

7. Before recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot units under the continuity of their use, one must follow the conditions specified in Paragraphs 9, 10, and 11 of Article 8 of this Law.

8. Hunting plot units in hunting plots, where no petitions specified in Paragraph 2 of this article concerning the inclusion of which into hunting plot units have been submitted by 1 April 2003, shall be established or such plots shall be attached to other already formed hunting plot units in accordance with the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law.

9. Permissions to the users of hunting plots, whose hunting plots have been recognised hunting plot units according to the procedure established in this article, to use resources of huntable animals in these units shall be issues without arranging the tender indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 10 of this Law.”

5.2. It is established in Article 23 “Proposals to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania” of the Law on Hunting: “The Government of the Republic of Lithuania, while taking into account the terms of coming into effect of this Law and certain articles thereof, shall draft and approve legal acts that are necessary for implementation of this Law.”

6. When deciding, whether the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting are not in conflict with the Constitution, one must find out, what model of planning and organisation of hunting, thus, the relations of hunting and those linked therewith as well, is consolidated in the Law on Hunting.

7. It has been mentioned that in the Law on Hunting, hunting is considered to be “protection of huntable animals and their rational use in accordance with this Law, other legal acts regulating the hunting, and by paying heed to the ecological conditions of the hunting plots, ethical norms and traditions of the national hunting culture” (Paragraph 8 of Article 2). Apart from the notion “hunting”, the notion “hunt” is used in the Law on Hunting as well: hunt is defined as “type of use of resources of wildlife, when one strives to use resources of huntable animals that exist in freedom by way of following, waiting, tracking, shooting or catching” (Paragraph 9 of Article 2).

Thus, according to the Law on Hunting, hunt constitutes one of the elements of the institute of hunting; the notion “hunting” that is used in the Law on Hunting comprises also the notion “hunt” that is used in this law as well.

8. According to the Law on Hunting, hunting is planned and organised in hunting plot units. In the Law on Hunting, a hunting plot unit is defined as “a continuous territory of hunting plots, which is formed in accordance with the principles of administration of hunting upon the procedure established in this Law, and in which one plans and organises the use of resources of huntable animals” (Paragraph 14 of Article 2). Thus, only the territories which under the Law on Hunting are considered to be hunting plots may be included in hunting plot units. In the Law on Hunting, hunting plots (from which hunting plot units are formed) are defined as “land, forest and water bodies, in which hunt may take place upon the procedure established in the Law” (Paragraph 11 of Article 2).

8.1. It is established in Paragraph 1 of Article 7 „Hunting Plots and Territories, Wherein Hunting is Prohibited” of the Law on Hunting that “All the territories shall be considered hunting plots and hunting shall be permitted therein, save the territories specified in Paragraph 2 of this article”, that indicates territories in which hunting is prohibited. Thus, hunting plots are defined not in positive, but in negative manner: the notion “hunting plot” comprises any territory that is not indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of this Law (area of land, forest or water body), in which hunting is not prohibited. It is established in Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting that hunting is prohibited in: (1) cemeteries, urban territories, national parks located in national reservations and biospheric reservations, minor reservations and other territories where this activity is prohibited by law and other legal act; (2) land lots located in the hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting; (3) other territories, in which one may not hunt due to local conditions and which are specified by the institutions forming hunting plot units upon the procedure set forth in Article 8 of the Law on Hunting.

It should be held that the territories specified in Item 1 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting (cemeteries, urban territories, national parks located in national reservations and biospheric reservations, minor reservations and other territories where this activity is prohibited by law and other legal act), as well as the territories indicated in Item 3 of this paragraph (other territories, in which one may not hunt due to local conditions and which are specified by the institutions forming hunting plot units upon the procedure set forth in Article 8 of the Law on Hunting) are not to be considered as hunting plots.

The land lots specified in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, in which their owners have prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, should be assessed differently.

When construing the title of Article 7 “Hunting Plots and Territories, Wherein Hunting is Prohibited” of the Law on Hunting only literally (by applying linguistic, verbal method of law construction only), one could state that, purportedly, all territories in this law are divided into hunting plots and territories, in which hunting is prohibited, as follows: hunting plots are all territories (areas of land, forest and water bodies), in which hunting is not prohibited (i.e. all territories that are not specified in Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting), while territories, in which hunting is prohibited (i.e. all territories specified in Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting), are considered to be hunting plots. One may state the same while literally construing the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting “All the territories shall be considered hunting plots and hunting shall be permitted therein, save the territories specified in Paragraph 2 of this article” as well.

When construing the legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting in this way, the land lots indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of this law, in which their owners have prohibited hunting pursuant to the procedure set forth in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, should not be considered as hunting plots.

On the other hand, if construing the title of Article 7 “Hunting Plots and Territories, Wherein Hunting is Prohibited” of the Law on Hunting and the provision of Paragraph 1 of this law in the above-mentioned manner (only literally, linguistically) one would fail to take into account the provision “Hunting shall be prohibited in <…> (2) land lots located in the hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting. The formula “land lots located in the hunting plots” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting implies that land lots, whose owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, that are located in hunting plots specified in Item 2 of this paragraph, should be considered hunting plots as well. It is worth mentioning in this context that the owner of private land, according to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, has the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest shall suffer damage during the hunting (upon informing the respective commission of his decision in writing within the established time period). Land lots indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting are the land lots, in which, upon the procedure established in the Law on Hunting, one might hunt, however, having made use of the right established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, the owners of which have prohibited hunting therein. Thus, the prohibition for the owner of a private land lot to hunt in the land lot that he owns, which is provided for in the Law on Hunting, does not mean that this land lot should not be considered as a hunting plot in which, if no prohibition for the owner exists, one may hunt as per procedure established in the Law on Hunting. In this regard the land lots indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting match the definition of the notion of hunting plots that is presented in Paragraph 11 of Article 2 of this law.

It should be held that the legal regime of land lots indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article of the Law on Hunting, which are located in hunting plots, if their owners have not prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, is fundamentally different from that of territories indicated in Item 1 of this paragraph (cemeteries, urban territories, national parks located in national reservations and biospheric reservations, minor reservations and other territories where this activity is prohibited by law and other legal act) as well as territories indicated in Item 3 of this paragraph (other territories, in which one may not hunt due to local conditions and which are specified by the institutions forming hunting plot units upon the procedure set forth in Article 8 of the Law on Hunting).

The legal regulation which is established in Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, where one makes an attempt to join basically different legal categories into one norm of the Law on Hunting and to regulate basically different relations, is controversial and equivocal; it should be corrected in essence.

8.2. It is worth stressing that in order to disclose the concept of hunting plots and hunting plot units, which is consolidated in the Law on Hunting, inter alia, to construe the legal regulation established in Article 7 of the law, it is not sufficient to apply solely the verbal method of construction, one should apply other methods of law construction, teleological and systemic inclusive, as well.

8.3. When construing teleologically the concept of hunting plots and hunting plot units, which is consolidated in the Law on Hunting (inter alia, in Article 7), one must pay heed to the objectives of the legal regulation established in this law and the purpose of this law, which is defined in this law itself, as it has been already mentioned, as follows: “<…> establish public relations linked to the protection of huntable wildlife that exists in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania and its rational use” (Article 1).

The objectives and purpose of the legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting are disclosed in various aspects by various provisions thereof, inter alia, the ones that regulate the formation of hunting plot units and the drafting of projects on hunting administration, for example: hunting is protection of huntable animals and their rational use, inter alia, by taking into account the ecologic conditions of hunting plots (Paragraph 8 of Article 2); formation of hunting plot units is “establishment of area and boundaries of the territory, in which private or legal person, while having a permission to use resources of huntable animals in the hunting, may plan and organise the use of resources of huntable animals as well as protection of huntable animals” (Paragraph 15 of Article 2); “Hunting plot units are formed and their boundaries are changed according to the principles of hunting, by ensuring, alongside, a rational use of the populations of huntable animals, sufficient protection of huntable animals and orderly and safe their hunt, as well as by ensuring that a more grave damage inflicted by huntable animals to the objects of economic activity of a person is avoided” (Paragraph 1 of Article 8); criteria of integrity of hunting plot units and requirements for establishment of boundaries of hunting plot units are approved by the Ministry of Environment in accordance with the following principles: (1) boundaries of hunting plot units must match clear natural or artificial margins, they must be in a prominent places, however, they may not be set in the outskirts of a wood; (2) roads, railway sections, electricity lines, natural and artificial water streams and other similar objects, if their shape, size and constructions or equipment located in them do not prevent from organising a hunting, do not disturb the integrity of hunting plot units, however, they may not be considered to be a longitudinal junction between separate distant parts of the hunting plot unit (Paragraph 1 of Article 8); “at least every 10 years the projects on hunting administration must be prepared for all hunting plot units that are formed upon the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, in which, upon the investigation of bio-ecological conditions of hunting plots and their changes, one shall establish: (1) fundamental conditions of use of huntable animals (minimum and maximum permitted abundance of huntable animals, compulsory biotechnical measures and other conditions, which are necessary in order to maintain viable populations of huntable animals and avoid grave damage that is inflicted by these animals upon land, forest and fishing farms, as well as other objects of economic activity of a person; (2) proposals to change boundaries of hunting plot units, if it is necessary in order to ensure rational use of resources of huntable animals and by taking into account the changes of use of the territory” (Paragraph 1 of Article 9); etc.

These provisions of the Law on Hunting disclose that by hunting plots and hunting plot units, as the elements of model of planning and organisation of hunting that is consolidated in the Law on Hunting, one strives to create pre-requisites for the rational use of populations of huntable animals, to ensure their viability and protection, and to use huntable animals in a rational way.

Thus, it should be held in this regard, i.e. rational management of huntable animals’ populations and rational use of huntable animals, that certain territory (area of land lots, forests, water bodies), under the Law on Hunting, is considered to be a hunting plot, this means that according to the aforementioned law this territory is subject to certain legal regime: under the Law on Hunting these territories in general may be used for hunt. However, hunting is not permitted in all territories, which are treated as hunting plots; in order to use the hunting plots for factual hunting, it is necessary to include them, upon the procedure established in the Law on Hunting, into a certain hunting plot unit. Hunting may not be planned and organised in the hunting plots that are not included into hunting plot units.

It should be held also that in regard to rational management of populations of huntable animals and rational use of huntable animals, allocation of hunting plots to particular hunting units means that territories, that are considered to be hunting plots as per Law on Hunting, are divided into certain territorial units—hunting plot units, in which hunting may be planned and organised in the manner enabling one to manage populations of huntable animals, ensure their viability and protection, as well as rational use of huntable animals. According to the Law on Hunting, one may not include in the hunting plot units the territories in which, despite their compliance with the attributes of hunting plots, objectives of legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting would not be achieved—the populations of huntable animals are not managed, their viability and protections is not ensured, huntable animals are not used in a rational way—when planning and organising the hunting.

8.4. In this context one should state once again that the criteria of integrity of a hunting plot unit and requirements for setting boundaries of hunting plot units are approved by the Ministry of Environment (Paragraph 1 of Article 8). One should note also that projects on formation of hunting plot units (and changing their boundaries) are made in every municipality by a commission established by the mayor of respective municipality, which includes representatives of administration of the municipality, institutions supervising the environmental protection, land administration, and public forests, public organisations of hunters that unite clubs and groups of hunters, as well as self-government organisations of land and forest owners (Paragraph 3 of Article 8); projects on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries are submitted for approval to the administrator of respective county (Paragraph 10 of Article 8); projects on the forming of hunting plot units, which are proposed to be established within a territory of more than one municipality, are drafted together with respective commissions of other municipalities, and if the boundaries of one hunting plot unit exceed the boundaries of one county, the project on forming such hunting plot unit must be approved in the counties, to the territory of which it intrudes (Paragraph 11 of Article 8).

Thus, it should be held that the legislature chose and entrenched in the Law on Hunting such model of planning and organising the hunting, and relations of hunting and those linked thereto, where the issue, whether certain territories that are considered to be hunting plots pursuant to the Law on Hunting should be included in respective hunting plot units, is decided by national or municipal institutions provided for in the Law on Hunting. In order to include certain hunting plots into hunting plot units, they must be continuous and formed in accordance with the principles of hunting administration. By such legal regulation one strives to ensure that hunting takes place only in such hunting plots, where populations of huntable animals are administered while planning and organising the hunt, and their viability and protection is ensured, and huntable animals are used in a rational way, i.e. it would be possible to achieve objectives of legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting.

8.5. When construing the concept of hunting plots and hunting plot units that is consolidated in the Law on Hunting (inter alia, Article 7), one should take into account provisions of Article 8 of this law.

According to Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, “the commission <…> shall mark the territories, in which hunting is prohibited according to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law, <…> in the plan of the hunting plot unit”, and according to Paragraph 10 of this article “the plan of the hunting plot unit with marked territories, in which one permits hunting and in which one prohibits hunting <…> shall constitute an inseparable part of the forming of a hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries”.

It has been mentioned that it is only the territories considered to be hunting plots pursuant to the Law on Hunting, which may be included in hunting plot units. It was mentioned also that the territories indicated in Item 1 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting (cemeteries, urban territories, national parks located in national reservations and biospheric reservations, minor reservations and other territories where this activity is prohibited by law and other legal act), as well as territories indicated in item 3 of this paragraph (other territories, in which one may not hunt due to local conditions and which are specified by the institutions forming hunting plot units upon the procedure set forth in Article 8 of the Law on Hunting) are not considered to be hunting plots. Despite the fact of being marked in the plan of respective hunting plot unit, they are not and they may not be considered a part of hunting plot unit.

The land plots indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, in which their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, should be considered differently. It was mentioned that these land lots match the definition of the concept of hunting plots that is presented in Paragraph 11 of Article 2 of this law. These are the land lots, in which one might hunt upon the procedure established by the Law on Hunting, however, the owners of which, having made use of the right consolidated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, prohibited hunting therein, and in which, if the owners place no prohibition, one might hunt upon the procedure established in the Law on Hunting. They may be included in respective hunting plot units and comprise a part of hunting plot unit.

When construing Article 7 of the Law on Hunting in the context of Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law, it should to be held that one may include in the hunting plot units both hunting plots, in which hunting is not prohibited, and the land lots, which are considered to be hunting plots as per this law, (which are indicated in Item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of this law), but in which their owners have prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting. The issue whether particular hunting plots may be included in the hunting plot units, and, if they may, in which namely, is decided by national and municipal institutions provided for in the Law on Hunting.

8.6. Thus, from the general legal regulation consolidated in the Law on Hunting, the conclusion should be drawn that in this law all territories (areas of land, forest, and water bodies) according to the possibility of hunting therein are divided into: (1) territories, in which hunting is prohibited pursuant to this law and which are not considered to be hunting plots; (2) territories, which are considered to be hunting plots as per this law. The aforementioned areas, in their turn, cover: (1) hunting plots, in which hunting is not prohibited; (2) land lots that are located in hunting plots, whose owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting.

9. In the Law on Hunting one has consolidated requirements of integrity and minimum size of the formed hunting plot units: a hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture (Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting). Exceptions are the fishing ponds, the total area of which may be at least 150 ha (Paragraph 8 of Article 8).

It should to be held that the Law on Hunting provides for such legal regulation, where if certain territorial unit that is formed from hunting plots meets only one aforementioned criterion (integrity or minimum size), such hunting plot unit could not be formed and approved.

10. In the Law on Hunting one has established procedure of forming hunting plot units and changing their boundaries. Hunting plot units are formed and their boundaries are changed in the following cases: (1) when they are formed in the hunting plots, in which, pursuant to the requirements of this law, no hunting plot units have been formed or where the users of the existing hunting plots refused using them; (2) by splitting or merging the existing hunting plot units, where such formation is performed upon the agreement of users of hunting plots and for the purposes established in Paragraph 1 of this article (i.e. when one strives to ensure rational use of populations of huntable animals, sufficient protection of huntable animals, orderly and safe their hunting, as well as to avoid more significant damage inflicted by huntable animals on the objects of economic activity of a person); (3) when, upon the establishment of new protected territories according to the Law on Protected Territories or upon changing the boundaries of existing protected territories wherein it is prohibited to hunt, one must provide more details about boundaries or territories of hunting plot unit, wherein one permits hunting; (4) upon the receiving of a respective proposal of the persons drafting a project on hunting administration (Paragraph 2 of Article 8). It has been mentioned that projects on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries in every municipality are drafted by the commission established by the mayor of respective municipality, which shall comprise the representatives of administration of the municipality, institutions supervising the environmental protection, land administration, and public forests, public organisations of hunters that unite clubs and groups of hunters, as well as self-government organisations of land and forest owners. The regulations of activity of the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries are approved by the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture (Paragraph 3 of Article 8). Proposals on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries may be submitted to the above-mentioned commission by: (1) the Ministry of Environment or institutions authorised by it—in cases related to scientific and educational hunting plot units and professional hunting plot units, as well as hunting plot units of common use, if a respective proposal has been received from the persons drafting a project on hunting administration; (2) the Ministry of Agriculture or institutions authorised by it—in cases related to hunting plot units within the territory of fishing ponds; (3) private or legal persons—in cases related to hunting plot units of common use (Paragraph 5 of Article 8). Hunting plot units may be formed and their boundaries may be changed upon the initiative of the aforementioned commission, when it is necessary in order to ensure the requirements set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 (Paragraph 6 of Article 8), i.e. when one strives to ensure rational use of populations of huntable animals, sufficient protection of huntable animals, orderly and safe their hunting, as well as avoid more significant damage inflicted by huntable animals on the objects of economic activity of a person. Having drafted a preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries, the commission announces this fact in the national and local press and sets a 1 month period, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this law (i.e. owners private land lots, whose land is intended to be allocated or is allocated to hunting plot unit) may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements, and other concerned private or legal persons—proposals concerning the project of the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries; such requirements and proposals are submitted to the commission directly or through wards, in which the land lots owned by the persons who submit proposals or requirements are located, and when the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted only through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry (Paragraph 9 of Article 8). Upon the expiry of the established period, the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, after examining the received requirements or proposals and assessing whether they are in compliance with the requirements provided for in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 (i.e. when one strives to ensure rational use of populations of huntable animals, sufficient protection of huntable animals, orderly and safe their hunting, as well as avoid more significant damage inflicted by huntable animals on the objects of economic activity of a person), decides whether it is expedient to take account of the received proposals, it shall amend, if needed, the project on the forming of the hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and within 1 month submit this project for approval to the head of a respective county. It has been mentioned that the plan of the hunting plot unit with marked territories, in which one permits hunting and in which one prohibits hunting, as well as an annex concerning the size of hunting plot units and their distribution according to suitability for inhabitation and reproduction of huntable animals, constitutes an inseparable part of the forming of a hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries (Paragraph 10 of Article 8). It has been mentioned also that projects on the forming of hunting plot units, which are proposed to be established within a territory of more than one municipality, are drafted together with respective commissions of other municipalities; if the boundaries of one hunting plot unit exceed the boundaries of one county, the project on forming such hunting plot unit must be approved in the counties, to the territory of which it intrudes (Paragraph 11 of Article 8).

11. According to Paragraph 3 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, the owner of a land lot or several communicating land lots, in which hunting is not prohibited and total area of which exceeds 1000 ha, may submit to the commission provided for in Article 8 of this Law a petition requesting it to recognise these lots as a hunting plot unit, which meets the requirements established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law; if land plots are recognised as a hunting plot unit, and formation of such hunting plot does not disturb the neighbouring hunting plot units, and, according to the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 10, permission to use resources of huntable animals in the hunting plot unit may be issued to their owner, a project on the forming of hunting plot units is made and approved pursuant to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, and a permission to use resources of huntable animals in hunting plot unit is issued without tender, which is provided for in Paragraph 2 of Article 10.

It should be stressed that the Law on Hunting does not prevent from appealing against the decision of the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 13 to court.

12. In the context of the case of the constitutional justice at issue, the legal regulation consolidated in the Law on Hunting should be construed in regard of the aspect of protection of rights and legitimate interests of owners of land lots that are located in hunting plots.

12.1. It is established in the Law on Hunting on what bases and upon what procedure the owner of a land lot that is located in a hunting plot unit may prohibit hunting in the land lot owned by him. It was mentioned that pursuant to Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, “hunting is prohibited in: <…> (2) land lots located in the hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting”. It is established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting that “the owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting”. The above-mentioned provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting are inseparable from Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law as well. For example, it is established in Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting: “Having drafted a preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries, the commission specified in Paragraph 3 of this article shall announce this fact in a national and local press and shall set a 1 month period, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements, and other concerned private or legal persons—proposals concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries. Such written proposals and requirements shall be submitted to the commission set forth in Paragraph 3 of this article directly or through wards, in which the land lots owned by the persons who submit proposals or requirements are located. When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right in the Real Estate Registry. The commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of this article shall mark the territories, in which hunting is prohibited according to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law until the expiry of the period specified by the persons who set these requirements, in the plan of the hunting plot unit. Fees for the use of resources of huntable animals in hunting plot unit shall be reduced in proportion to the size of such territories, still the establishment of these restrictions shall not disturb the integrity of hunting plot units.” Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, prescribed: “Upon the expiry of the period established in Paragraph 9 of this article, the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, after examining the received requirements or proposals and assessing whether they are in compliance with the requirements provided for in Paragraph 1 of this article, shall decide whether it is expedient to take account of the received proposals, it shall amend, if needed, the project on the forming of the hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and within 1 month submit this project for approval to the head of a respective county”.

Thus, the Law on Hunting consolidates such legal regulation, according to which the owner of a private land lot has the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, but he may do so only on the basis and only upon the procedure that is established in Paragraph 2 of Article 7, Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8, as well as Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting.

It is worth noting that in this regard a difference between two legal situations should be observed: (1) the owner enjoys the right to prohibit hunting in a land lot, which is owned by him and located in hunting plots, when respective hunting plot unit is still under formation; (2) a person, who has acquired a land lot as ownership from another owner, which is already included in a particular already formed and approved hunting plot unit, may prohibit hunting in that lot.

12.1.1. When describing the first situation, where the owner has the right to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is owned by him and located in hunting plots, when the respective hunting plot unit is still under formation, it should be stressed that the owner may implement this right of his own only on the bases established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting and only upon the procedure established in Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting. In Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting, a sole basis, in the existence of which this right may be implemented, is entrenched—when damage is inflicted upon agricultural crops or forest during the hunting. Moreover, according to Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, a decision whether to take into account the requirements of the owner of a land lot and, when forming a respective hunting plot unit, to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is owned by this particular owner and located in the hunting plots, is adopted by the commission provided for in the Law on Hunting. Thus, in the Law on Hunting one has entrenched such legal regulation, which provides that even in cases, where the owner of the land lot which is located in hunting plots does not agree with hunting in the land lot owned by him, and bases this disapproval on the threat to agricultural crops or forest, the commission may disregard the requests of the owner and decide without his consent that hunting will take place in that land lot. In this way one creates preconditions for the emergence of such legal situations, where against the will of the owner of private land, forest, and water body some commission decides that hunting will take place in the land lot, forest or water body owned by him by the ownership right.

When describing the first legal situation, where the owner has the right to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is owned by him and located in hunting plots, when respective hunting plot unit is still under formation, it should be noted that in Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting one has established a procedure, upon which the owner is informed that it is intended to assign the land lot owned by him to a hunting plot unit, and the time period, during which the owner may submit to the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting requirements related to the use of land lot which is owned by him and located in hunting plots for hunting, including the requirement to prohibit hunting in that land lot: that fact that a preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries is made, is announced in national and local press; within 1 month the owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit upon the procedure established by law, may submit to the commission of a respective municipality in writing his request concerning the aforementioned project. Having established the mentioned method of informing the owner and the aforementioned period of 1 month, one creates prerequisites for origination of such legal situations, where the owner of the land lot that is located in hunting plots knows nothing about the formed hunting plot unit, and, therefore, is not able to make use of the right to which he is entitled according to the Law on Hunting, to submit requests to the commission provided for in the Law on Hunting, that are related to the use of the land lot which is owned by him and which is located in hunting plots for hunt, including the request to prohibit hunting in that land lot.

12.1.2. When describing the second legal situation—when a person, who has acquired a land lot as ownership from another owner, which is already included in a particular already formed and approved hunting plot unit, may prohibit hunting therein—one should note that, as already mentioned, pursuant to Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry”. When construing Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting together with Paragraph 2 of Article 7, Paragraph 2 of Article 13 and Paragraph 10 of Article 8, it should to be held that after the change of the owner of a land lot that is already included in a particular, already formed and approved, hunting plot unit, pursuant to the Law on Hunting the latter has the right to prohibit hunting, in accordance with the Law on Hunting, in that land lot only on the basis of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the law, only within a certain period (within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry), moreover, the decision whether or not to grant the request of the new owner to prohibit hunting in the land lot owned by him, is made not by the owner himself, but by the commission provided for in the Law on Hunting.

It should be noted that neither from the provisions consolidated in item 2 of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting, Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8, and Paragraph 2 of Article 13, nor any other provisions of this law there appears the right of the owner of the land lot which is located in hunting plot units, after the hunting plot unit is already formed, to prohibit hunting in the land lot that is owned by him and already included in the particular hunting plot unit (save the exception when the owner of the land lot changes).

12.2. It is established in Paragraph 1 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting that “upon agreement of the users of hunting plots, owner of a private land lot, who has a hunter’s licence, shall have the right to hunt, according to the procedure established in the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania, together with users of hunting plots in all hunting plot units, into which the land lot owned by him intrudes”.

12.3. According to Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Law on Hunting, users of hunting plots, who wish to apply in the land lot owned by the owner and located in hunting plot unit the biotechnological measures, as well as to build and use stationary hunting equipment, must get permission of the owner of that land lot.

13. In the Law on Hunting one has entrenched the principle, according to which damage inflicted by huntable animals that exist in freedom to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, is recovered upon the procedure established by the Law on Hunting by the users of hunting plots (Paragraph 3 of Article 18). Where the owners of the land have prohibited hunting in the lots owned by them, damage inflicted on them by huntable animals is not recovered (Paragraph 7 of Article 18). If damage is inflicted to the owners, administrators or users of land, forest and water bodies, in which hunting is not prohibited, by huntable animals, the hunting of which is prohibited for the whole year, such damage, in the cases provided for in the Law on Hunting and upon the procedure established therein, is recovered by the state (Paragraph 4 of Article 18).

14. It was mentioned that the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting regarding the prohibition on hunting, the size of hunting plot units and the non-recovery of damage inflicted by huntable animals are also related to the provisions of Article 22 and 23 of the Law on Hunting, which are aimed at ensuring the transition from relations of hunting and those linked therewith that were based on the former legal regulation to the relations of hunting and those linked therewith that are based on the legal regulation established by the Law on Hunting.

14.1. Pursuant to Article 22 of the Law on Hunting: the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, specified in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this law, had to be established in the indicated manner in each municipality no later than within 2 months from the date of coming into effect of this Law (Paragraph 1); users of hunting plots, who used the hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of this law and who used them without violating requirements of legal acts, until 1 April 2003 could submit petitions to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, and hunting plots used by them had to be recognised as hunting plot units and permissions to hunt resources of huntable animals that exist in them had to be issued while following the continuity of use of hunting plots, and in accordance with the procedure established in this article (Paragraph 2); together with respective petition one had to submit the following: (1) agreements on hunting plot lease, which are registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; (2) documents attesting the allocation of hunting plots located in a state-owned territory (only in case of professional hunting plots and plots for scientific and educational hunting); (3) written minutes of approval of boundaries of hunting plots by the users of all communicating hunting plots, if any were made, according to which one approves factual boundaries of hunting plot units, or, on the basis of these minutes, the users of communicating hunting plots corrected boundaries of hunting plots in order to achieve objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law; (4) other documents attesting the lawful use of hunting plots (Paragraph 3); the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, when adopting decision on territories that are proposed to be included in hunting plot unit, if no documents specified in Item 1 of Paragraph 3 of this article related to the use of them are submitted, or not all documents are submitted, had to take into account proposals made in the documents that are indicated in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article or set boundaries of hunting plot unit while taking account of the objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this law (Paragraph 4); the boundaries of hunting plots, which were in use prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law in accordance with the documents specified in Paragraph 3 of this article and which were in compliance with the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this law, were not changed, save the cases where users of communicating hunting plot units, while seeking the objectives of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this law, by written minutes of approval of boundaries of hunting plots requested the establishing of different boundaries (Paragraph 5); users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha could agree with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots, by consolidating this fact in the document specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article and submitting a joint petition to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law on recognising the hunting plots as a hunting plot unit, and in case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, had to be made by the aforementioned commission (Paragraph 6); before recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot units under the continuity of their use, one had to follow the conditions specified in Paragraphs 9, 10, and 11 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting (Paragraph 7); hunting plot units in hunting plots, where no petitions specified in Paragraph 2 of this article concerning the inclusion of which into hunting plot units have been submitted by 1 April 2003, had to be established or such plots had to be attached to other already formed hunting plot units in accordance with the procedure established in Article 8 of the Law on Hunting (Paragraph 8); permissions to the users of hunting plots, whose hunting plots have been recognised as hunting plot units according to the procedure established in this article, to use resources of huntable animals in these units had to be issued without arranging the tender indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 10 of this law (Paragraph 9).

Pursuant to Article 23 of the Law on Hunting, the Government, while taking account of the terms of coming into effect of this law and certain articles thereof, had to prepare and approve legal acts that are necessary for the implementation of this law.

14.2. It should to be held that in Paragraph 2 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting one has consolidated the general principles, on the basis for recognising the hunting plots which were used by the users of hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of this law could be recognised as the hunting plot units, and the permits to use the resources of huntable animals in the aforementioned hunting plot units had to be issued to their users even after the date when the Law on Hunting became effective.

14.3. The continuity of the use of hunting plots which is indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, on the one hand, means that the users of hunting plots, who used certain hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, have the right to use these hunting plots (in the Law on Hunting already called hunting plot units). On the other hand, according to this paragraph, the hunting plots which were in use prior to the date when the Law on Hunting became effective, are recognised as hunting plot units, and permits to use the resources of huntable animals in these hunting plots are issued upon the procedure established in Article 22.

It should be noted in this context that under Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, the users of hunting plots which are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this article, who have used the hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of this law and who wish to use them after the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, together with a respective request must submit, inter alia, agreements on hunting plot lease concluded with the owners and managers of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), which are registered upon the procedure established in the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, as well as schemes of leased hunting plots. Thus, pursuant to Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, the hunting plots which were used by the users of hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, are recognised as hunting plot units even after the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, save the hunting plots (their parts), which were leased under agreements on hunting plot lease, concluded with owners and managers of hunting lots on and after 29 December 2001. The material in the case shows that the date of 29 December 2001 was chosen due to the fact that on this particular date the Law on Wildlife (wording of 11 December 2001), in Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of which one prescribed that wild animals that exist in freedom belong to the state under the ownership right, became effective. Due to such legal regulation, established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, users of hunting plots, who have concluded agreements on hunting plot lease on and after 29 December 2001, found themselves in a situation which is unequal to the situation of other users of hunting plots, who have concluded agreements on hunting plot lease prior to 29 December 2001.

14.4. It is established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, that the users of hunting plots, who are mentioned in Paragraph 2 of this article, together with a respective request, alongside to other documents must submit “written minutes of approval of boundaries of hunting plots by the users of all communicating hunting plots, if any were made, according to which one approves factual boundaries of hunting plot units, or, on the basis of these minutes, the users of communicating hunting plots correct boundaries of hunting plots in order to achieve objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law” (Item 3). Such legal regulation means also that the boundaries of hunting plots that include private land, forests, and water bodies, may be changed without the permission of owners of such land, forests, and water bodies.

14.5. The provision “the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, when adopting decision on territories that are proposed to be included in hunting plot unit, if no documents specified in Item 1 of Paragraph 3 of this article related to the use of them are submitted, or not all documents are submitted, shall take into account proposals made in the documents that are indicated in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article or set boundaries of hunting plot unit while taking account of the objectives set forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law” of Paragraph 4 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting means that when making a decision on inclusion into the hunting plot units of territories, concerning the use of which no documents indicated in Item 1 of Paragraph 3 of this article were submitted or the submitted documents do not comprise a full set, one does not request a permission of the owner of the private land, forests, and water bodies which are intended to be included in a particular hunting plot unit.

14.6. The provision “boundaries of hunting plots, which were in use prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law in accordance with the documents specified in Paragraph 3 of this article and which were in compliance with the requirements of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law, may not be changed, save the cases where users of communicating hunting plot units, while seeking the objectives of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, by written minutes of approval of boundaries of hunting plots request the establishing of different boundaries” of Paragraph 5 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting means that boundaries of hunting plots, which were used prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, may be changed without permission of the owners of private land, forests, and water bodies that are included in respective hunting plots.

14.7. The provisions “users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha may agree with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots, by consolidating this fact in the document specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article and submitting a joint petition to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law on recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot unit” and “in case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission” of Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting mean that if the users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha fail to reach a consent with users of communicating plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units is made by a commission of respective municipality. In this way one creates prerequisites for such legal situations, where persons, who have formed and registered hunting plot comprising less than 1000 ha may not use them for hunting after 1 April 2003.

15. In conclusion, it should to be held that in the Law on Hunting one has established the legal regulation where a model of relations of hunting and those linked therewith is based on the following principles that are of importance to the case of constitutional justice at issue: (1) the principle of national ownership of huntable animals that exist in freedom, according to which huntable animals that exist in freedom belong to the state under the ownership right; (2) the principle of treating the right to hunt huntable animals that exist in freedom as an acquired right, according to which the right to hunt huntable animals that exist in freedom originates from this law and other legal acts, and is granted to the persons upon the procedure and on the grounds established in the Law on Hunting by the state (or its authorised institutions); (3) the principle of separation of the right to hunt in particular land lots, forests, and water bodies from the right of ownership of these land lots, forests, and water bodies, according to which the right to hunt huntable animals that exist in freedom in particular land lots, forests, and water bodies constitutes an individual right acquired under the Law on Hunting and other legal acts, and which is related to the right of ownership of these land lots, forests, and water bodies only in certain cases provided for in this law and only to a certain extent; (4) the principle of planning and organising the hunting in hunting plot units, according to which the hunting (as well as the use of resources of huntable animals in general) is planned and organised in continuous hunting plots that are assigned to particular hunting plot units; (5) the principle of continuity of use of hunting plots, according to which the hunting plots that meet the requirements of the law, which were used by certain users prior to the date of coming into effect of this law without violating the requirements of legal acts, are recognised as hunting plot units, and permission to continue hunting (using the resources of huntable animals) in these hunting plot units are issued to the aforementioned previous users of respective hunting plots upon the procedure established in the Law on Hunting; (6) the principle of limited recovery of damage, according to which the recovery of damage caused by huntable animals to the owners of land lots, forests, and water bodies, who own the mentioned land lots, forests, and water bodies under the ownership right, is linked to the fact whether or not the owner has prohibited hunting in respective land lots, forests, and water bodies.

16. Having compared the legal regulation of relations of hunting and those linked therewith which is established in the Law on Hunting with the legal regulation of the aforementioned relations entrenched in legal acts that were effective in Lithuania prior to 1940, as well as with legal acts that were effective from 1991 till 2002, it should to be held that the relations linked with organisation of hunting, formation of hunting plots (their units), as well as the right of owners of land, forest and water bodies, whose land, forests, or water bodies are assigned to hunting plots, are regulated differently in the Law on Hunting.

First, in the Law on Hunting one has consolidated a different principle of the forming of hunting plot units: hunting plot units are formed not on the basis of the agreement on hunting plot lease, but according to the project of hunting plot units that are prepared in every municipality by certain commission of respective municipality and approved by the head of respective municipality.

Second, the Law on Hunting permits hunting in the hunting plots that are located in the land lots owned by private owners, as well, unless their owners have prohibited this upon the bases and procedure established in the Law on Hunting. Thus, it should to be held that in Lithuanian legal acts that were effective prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting the principle of special permission, which meant that nobody could hunt in a land owned by the owner without his permission, was replaced with the principle of joint permission, which means that hunting in a land of the owner is permitted where the owner has not prohibited this upon the bases and procedure established in the Law on Hunting.

Third, in the Law on Hunting one has dropped the former provisions of Lithuanian legal acts that were effective earlier, according to which land owners could hunt small fauna in the land which is owned by them and not leased.

In these regards the legal regulation of relations of hunting and those linked therewith, entrenched in the Law on Hunting, deviated from the authentic tradition of hunting which has originated in Lithuania and which had been consolidated in former legal acts.

17. Upon adoption of the Law on Hunting, the following substatutory legal acts were harmonised with it, inter alia:

17.1. On 20 March 2002, the Minister of Environment issued the Order (No. 124) “On Revision of Hunting Trophies and the Council of Experts on Hunting Trophies”, by Item 3.2 whereof he recognised the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 358) “On the Confirmation of the Typical Form of Agreements on Lease of Hunting Plots That Are in State-owned Land” of 1 September 2000 (by which one has approved the form of agreements on lease of hunting plots that are in state-owned land) as no longer effective.

17.2. On 23 September 2002, the Minister of Environment issued the Order (No. 493) “On Amending the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 298) ‘On Issuing Permissions to Establish Zoological Gardens and Approval of Procedure of Zoological Garden Administration and Control over It’ of 4 June 2002, and on Recognising the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 200) ‘On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Wildlife’ of 19 October 1998, as well as the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 331) ‘On the Approval of Minimal Norms Applied to Premises of Keeping Wild Animals in Captivity’ of 15 October 1999 as no Longer Effective”, by Item 2.1 whereof he recognised the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 200) “On the Implementation of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Wildlife” of 19 October 1998 as no longer effective (whereby one had approved the list of species of wild animals that may be used in the Republic of Lithuania).

17.3. On 30 September 2002, the Minister of Environment issued the Order (No. 511) “On a New Wording of the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania that were Approved by the Order of the Minister of Environment ‘On the Approval of the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania’ of 27 June 2000”, by Item 1 whereof he amended the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania that were approved by Item 1 of the Order of the Minister of Environment (No. 258) “On the Approval of the Rules of Hunting in the Territory of the Republic of Lithuania” of 27 June 2000, and set them forth in a new wording. The Order of the Minister of Environment of 30 September 2002 became effective on 10 October 2002.

17.4. On 13 January 2003, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 10) “On the Approval of Methodology of Calculation of Tax for the Use of Resources of Huntable Animals and Rate of Tax for the Use of Resources of Huntable Animals, Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1458) ‘On the Approval of the List of Subjects to the State Levy, Amounts of the Levy, as well as Procedure of Payment and Recovery’ of 15 December 2000, and on the Recognition of the Resolution (No. 210) ‘On the Approval of the Size of Payment for the Rent of Hunting Plots that are Located in State-owned Forests, Free State-owned Land and Land in the State-owned Internal Water Funds’ of 25 February 1999 as No Longer Effective”, by Item 4 whereof it recognised the Government Resolution (No. 210) “On the Approval of the Size of Payment for the Rent of Hunting Plots that are Located in State-owned Forests, Free State-owned Land and Land in the State-owned Internal Water Funds” of 25 February 1999 (by which the size of payment for the lease of hunting plots that are located in state-owned forests, free state-owned land and land in the state-owned internal water funds was approved) as no longer effective, and by Item 1.1 and 1.2 whereof it approved the methodology of calculation of tax for the use of resources of huntable animals and the rates of the tax for the use of resources of huntable animals respectively. In Item 2 of the Government Resolution of 13 January 2003 one prescribed that the Ministry of Environment indexes the approved rates and defined the procedure of indexation. The methodologies approved by the Government Resolution of 13 January 2003 were amended by the Government Resolution (No. 903) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 10) ‘On the Approval of Methodology of Calculation of Tax for the Use of Resources of Huntable Animals and Rate of Tax for the Use of Resources of Huntable Animals, the Amendment of the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1458) “On the Approval of the List of Subjects to the State Levy, Amounts of the Levy, as well as Procedure of Payment and Recovery” of 15 December 2000, and the Recognition of the Resolution (No. 210) “On the Approval of the Size of Payment for the Rent of Hunting Plots that are Located in State-owned Forests, Free State-owned Land and Land in the State-owned Internal Water Funds” of 25 February 1999’ of 13 January 2003 as No Longer Effective” of 14 July 2003.

18. In this case the Constitutional Court will investigate the compliance of legal regulation established in the Law on Hunting with the Constitution only concerning the aspects indicated in the petition of the petitioner, i.e. it will investigate whether the provisions related to particular prohibitions on hunting, the sizes of the hunting plot units and the non-recovery of damage inflicted by the huntable animals that are impugned by the petitioner are not in conflict with the Constitution, as well as whether other provisions of the Law on Hunting that are not indicated by the petitioner and by which one directly interferes in the legal regulation impugned by the petitioner are not in conflict with the Constitution. In this case the Constitutional Court will not investigate whether the provisions of the Law on Hunting that are not in any way directly related to the provisions that are impugned by the petitioner and that do not directly interfere in the impugned legal regulation are not in conflict with the Constitution.

VII

1. The petitioner requests an investigation into whether the impugned provisions of the Law on Hunting are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 and Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

2. It was mentioned that the Law on Hunting regulates, inter alia, the right of use of huntable animals’ resources, formation of hunting plot units and procedure of the granting of the right to use in them the resources of huntable animals, the granting of the right of hunting, etc. The resources of huntable wildlife that exist in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania are one of the objects of natural environment that is protected by the Constitution, which demands that they be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented.

The constitutional bases of legal regulation of relations regarding natural environment, the use and protection of its individual objects are established in Article 54 of the Constitution.

In its rulings the Constitutional Court has held more than once that the Constitution is an integral act, that the principles and norms of the Constitution constitute a harmonious system, that it is not permitted to construe any provision of the Constitution only literally, that it is not permitted to construe any provision of the Constitution so that the content of another provision of the Constitution could be distorted or denied, since the essence of the entire constitutional legal regulation would thus be distorted and the balance of constitutional values would thus be disturbed.

Therefore, the provisions of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 and Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution should be construed by taking account, in the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, of the provisions of Article 54 of the Constitution.

3. Article 54 of the Constitution provides:

The State shall look after the protection of the natural environment, its fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value, and shall supervise that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented.

The destruction of land and the subterranean, the pollution of water and air, environmental degradation as the result of radioactive impact, and the impoverishment of fauna and flora, shall be prohibited by law.”

4. The Constitution treats the natural environment, its fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value as national values of universal importance. The protection of the natural environment, its fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value and securing that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented are a public interest the guaranteeing of which is a constitutional obligation of the state. In its ruling of 6 May 1997, the Constitutional Court held that the implementation of the interest of society which is recognised by the state and is protected by law is one of the most important conditions of existence and evolution of society itself.

5. An obligation to the state arises from Article 54 of the Constitution to establish the legal regulation and to act so that natural environment and its individual objects be protected, and that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented. For this purpose a corresponding system of state institutions must be created and it must function properly, funds must be provided for in the state budget, which are necessary to protect natural environment and to ensure that its individual objects be protected, and that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented.

Duties to all persons that are in the territory of the Republic of Lithuania also arise from Article 54 of the Constitution: they must abstain from the actions by which harm could be inflicted on land and the subterranean, on water and air, as well as flora and fauna. The legislature must prohibit the actions which inflict harm on natural environment and its objects, and establish legal liability for such actions. The said prohibitions and legal liability for disregard of these prohibitions must be established only by means of legislation, while the procedure of the implementation of these prohibitions may be regulated by substatutory legal act, too.

The state, being under constitutional obligation to act so that the protection of natural environment and of its individual objects, moderate use of natural resources and their restoration and augmentation are guaranteed, may legislatively establish the legal regulation under which the use of individual objects (natural resources) of natural environment be restricted, while certain subjects of the legal relations are obligated to act in a respective manner or to abstain from certain actions.

6. While protecting natural environment and its individual objects, the state, by attempting to ensure moderate use of natural resources, their restoration and augmentation, must guarantee also the balance of values entrenched in the Constitution.

The state, when it regulates relations linked with protection of natural environment and its individual objects, the use of natural resources, their restoration and augmentation, also when it limits the use of individual objects of natural environment (natural resources) or when it obligates certain subjects of legal relations to act in a respective manner or to abstain from certain actions, is bound by the imperative of social harmony, the principles of justice, reasonableness and proportionality which are entrenched in the Constitution, inter alia, when such limitations or obligations one interferes with the implementation of constitutional rights and freedoms of the person.

7. Article 54 of the Constitution names various objects of natural environment, i.e. fauna, flora, land, the subterranean, waters, air, districts of particular value, as national values of universal importance.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that one should draw the conclusion from the provision “The State shall look after the protection of <…> fauna <…>, and shall supervise that natural resources be used moderately and that they be restored and augmented” of Paragraph 1 of Article 54, and from the provision “the impoverishment of fauna <…> shall be prohibited by law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 54 of the Constitution that fauna (its resources), wildlife inclusive, is one of natural resources which, under the Constitution, must be protected and whose rational use, restoration and augmentation must be ensured.

8. Wildlife is part of natural environment, which is very important to normal functioning and survival of various ecologic systems. Wildlife is a distinctive aesthetic, scientific, cultural, recreational and economic value of the heritage of nature belonging society and the entire humankind. Due to this, wildlife is not only a national value: it also bears universal and transnational importance. There is no doubt that it is necessary to preserve it and pass it on to the posterity.

Wildlife is a notably broad and generalising notion, all kinds of undomesticated animals inclusive. The peculiarity of wildlife, as a value protected and defended by the Constitution, is also the fact that it is very dynamic, that wild animals that exist in freedom often change the place of their presence, therefore, the management of wildlife, as a whole, and disposal of it (like an item) are impossible.

However, the obligation arises for the state out of Article 54 of the Constitution to ensure that populations (kinds) of wild animals be properly managed (regulated and controlled) so that protection and rational use of wildlife, as a national value of universal importance, be ensured. If populations (kinds) of wild animals were not managed (i.e. not regulated and not controlled), or managed improperly, other objects of natural environment as well as certain kinds of wild animals themselves and various ecological systems could be harmed. In case proper management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals were not ensured, preconditions would be created for violating the values (life, health, property etc.) entrenched in and protected and defended by the Constitution, thus, also the rights and interests of the person.

In this context, it should be held that, under Article 54 of the Constitution, the state (institutions that create law) may and in certain cases, by taking account of various circumstances, must establish a legal regulation whereby it would be possible to properly and effectively manage (i.e. to regulate and control) populations (kinds) of wild animals (the size, spreading, migration etc. of the populations) so that protection of wildlife, its rational use, restoration and augmentation are ensured and that no preconditions are created to impoverish wildlife—a national value of universal importance. While regulating the relations linked with management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of animals by legal acts, the state must pay heed to requirements of humane treatment of animals and not tolerate cruel and inhumane treatment of animals by other persons.

9. The state (its institutions) may choose various ways and means of proper management of populations (kinds) of wild animals. On the other hand, while paying heed to the imperative of social harmony and the principles of justice, reasonableness and proportionality that are entrenched in the Constitution, the state (its institutions) cannot choose the ways and means of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, which could unreasonably restrict or in general deny the rights and legitimate interests of persons and social groups, and which would violate their legitimate expectations.

10. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that one of the ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals is hunting, a long standing type of human activity tradition and social institute. Alongside, it needs to be noted that hunting is applied together with other ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, which are of no less importance and of traditions of no less importance. Hunting cannot be opposed to other types of human activity, while a reasonable and fair balance must be found between the rights and legitimate interests of persons engaged in hunting and the rights and legitimate interests of other persons.

11. As a type of human activity and social institute, hunting is a diverse phenomenon, including (1) management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals; (2) pastime activity; (3) economic activity. The said three aspects of hunting are interrelated.

First, as mentioned before, hunting is one of the ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, thus, also one of the means of protection and rational use of wild animals. If compared to other ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, the specificity of hunting is, inter alia, determined by the fact that traditionally private persons—hunters, who, as a rule (but not necessarily) are united into corresponding associations (circles, societies or other organisations of hunters)—are entrusted with the implementation of such control over populations (kinds) of animals. However, hunting could also be planned and arranged not through private persons, hunters, or not through them alone. No matter upon what organisational principles hunting relations and those linked therewith are based, under the Constitution the state cannot opt out of control and supervision of hunting activity.

Second, as a rule, hunting is pastime activity to hunters (private persons). Hunting as pastime activity is linked with implementation of the acquired right: only the persons can engage in this activity, who have acquired the right of hunting. It needs to be emphasised that the right of hunting is not a constitutional right: it arises from legal acts of lower legal force and must be implemented in the way that is provided in the legal acts. This right is defended as an acquired right.

Third, hunting is a type of economic activity or a constituent part of broader economic activity. In this aspect, it should be noted that, on the one hand, professional hunting as a source of a person’s income is possible; on the other hand, a person’s economic activity can also include planning and arrangement of hunting.

12. As mentioned before, the right of hunting is an acquired right. The Constitution does not employ the notion of hunting. Hunting relations and those linked therewith are regulated by law and substatutory act.

While choosing a model of planning and arrangement of hunting, thus, that of the hunting relations and those linked with it, and establishing it in legal acts, the state enjoys broad discretion. While implementing this discretion, the state (lawmaking subjects according to their competence) may establish a procedure of hunting plots formation, their sizes, manner of hunting, the time and other conditions of hunting, to specify wild animals whose hunting is either permitted or prohibited, etc. While regulating these relations, the state must create preconditions for ensuring a rational use of huntable wild animals and their protection, by taking account of, inter alia, the amount of these resources and the need of regulation of their size. While doing this, lawmaking subjects are bound by the constitutional imperative of social harmony, the principles of justice, reasonableness, and proportionality which are consolidated in the Constitution, as well as other norms and principles of the Constitution.

It needs to be noted that in the course of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, hunting is applied together with other ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals. Thus, hunting cannot be opposed to other types of human activity, while the rights and legitimate interests of members of society, who are engaged in or otherwise related to hunting, may not be opposed to the rights and legitimate interests of other members of society. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be emphasised that from the Constitution an obligation arises for the state, when it regulates hunting relations and those linked therewith, to keep a fair balance between the interests of society and the person, to ensure the public interest and to evade any unreasonable limitation on the rights of the person.

13. Wildlife is a specific constituent part of natural environment also in the aspect that the living environment of wild animals is, inter alia, land lots, forests and water bodies which in their turn (not relating them with the wild animals that exist in/on them) can be a matter of various legal relations. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that land lots, forests and water bodies which constitute living surroundings of wild animals may belong to various persons by right of ownership, inter alia, to those to whom they belong by right of private ownership.

In addition, as mentioned before, management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals, one types of which is hunting, may be linked with economic activity as well; hunting can be a type of economic activity or a constituent part of broader economic activity.

Thus, when regulating hunting relations and those linked therewith, one must pay heed, inter alia, to the provisions of Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution concerning inviolability and protection of property and the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 46 concerning the values constituting the basis of the national economy—the right of private ownership, individual economic freedom and initiative, which were pointed out by the petitioner.

14. Article 23 of the Constitution provides:

Property shall be inviolable.

The rights of ownership shall be protected by law.

Property may only be seized for the needs of society in accordance with the procedure established by law and shall be justly compensated for.”

15. While construing Article 23 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court held more than once in its rulings that the inviolability of property and protection of ownership which are consolidated in this article mean, inter alia, that the owner has the right to possess the property that belongs to him, to use and dispose of it, also the right to demand that other persons not violate these his rights, while the state has a duty to protect and defend ownership against unlawful encroachment upon it.

The provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution that the rights of ownership are protected by law means that legislative protection of subjective rights of ownership is guaranteed. As a rule, the subjective right of ownership is defined as an opportunity of the owner, which is protected by law, to possess, at his discretion and in his interests, the property that belongs to him and to use and dispose of it, however, the owner cannot overstep the limits established by law, nor restrict the rights and freedoms of other persons (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 16 March 1999). The said provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution also means that laws must protect the rights of ownership of all owners, thus, also the right of ownership of the state as an organisation of the entire society (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 30 September 2003).

The constitutional guarantee of protection of the right of ownership is a status quo guarantee, since it protects, first of all, the rights of ownership of the person that he enjoys (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 27 October 1998, 16 March 1999, and 4 March 2003).

16. The Constitutional Court has also held more than once that under the Constitution the right of ownership is not absolute also in the aspect that it can be limited by law due to the nature of the object of ownership, due to committed deeds that are contrary to law and/or due to a need which is necessary to society and which is constitutionally grounded. Limitations on the right of ownership are not impermissible, however, in all case these conditions must be followed: the right of ownership may be limited only on the grounds of a law; the limitations must be necessary in a democratic society in order to protect the rights and freedoms of other persons, the values entrenched in the Constitution and/or constitutionally important objectives; the principle of proportionality must be followed, under which the measures provided for in laws must be in line with the objectives sought which are necessary to society and are constitutionally grounded. It needs to be emphasised that, under the Constitution, it is impermissible to deny the essence of the right of ownership by means of any limitation on the right of ownership; if the right of ownership is limited so that its implementation becomes impossible, if it is restricted by overstepping reasonably comprehensible limits or its legal defence is not ensured, then there are grounds to assert that the essence of the right of ownership is violated, while this amounts to negation of this right.

17. The constitutional imperative of social harmony, constitutional principles of justice, reasonableness and proportionality, as well as other provisions of the Constitution, imply that the inviolability of property and protection of subjective rights of ownership which are entrenched in the Constitution cannot be interpreted as grounds for opposing the right and interests of the owner to the public interest, as well as the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of other persons. Ownership also performs a social function. While construing the provisions of Article 23 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has held that ownership includes obligations and that by this provision a social function of ownership is expressed (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 21 December 2000, 14 March 2002, 19 September 2002, and 30 September 2003).

18. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that land, forests and water bodies are among objects of ownership (also of private ownership). Their proper and rational use is a public interest protected by the Constitution.

It should especially by emphasised that, from the point of view of the right of ownership, land, forests and water bodies are special objects, since proper use and protection of land, forests and water bodies are a medium of existence of the human being as a biological and social being, a medium of his maintenance of social ties and spread, also a condition of survival and development of the human being and society, and as the basis of the welfare of the Nation. Ownership includes obligations. This constitutional imperative, linked with the aforesaid especially important function of land, forests and water bodies, as objects of natural environment, and with their character as of special objects of the right of ownership, means that under the Constitution a legal regulation must be established whereby also the obligation of the owners would be consolidated to contribute to ensuring the public interest entrenched in the Constitution, which is protection of natural environment, fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value and rational use, restoration and augmentation of natural resources, in the way that the land, forests and water bodies that belong to them by right of ownership are used only properly and rationally, that no harm is inflicted on them as a medium of existence of the human being and society, which is one of the necessary conditions of survival and development of the human being and society. This implies, inter alia, that laws can establish specific requirements defining the management, use and disposal of land lots, forests and water bodies and respective limitations on, and conditions for, the owners of these objects. In this context, it should be noted that, in its ruling of 27 May 1994, the Constitutional Court held that the specific purpose and situation of land, if compared with other objects of real property, also determines a special legal regulation of land relations; it was held in the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 8 March 1995 and 25 September 1996 that in the Constitution land is treated as a universal value which has a social function, which is to serve the welfare of the Nation; it was held in the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 1 June 1998 that a special ecological, social and economic importance of the forest to the environment and public interests determines certain limitations and restrictions on the rights of ownership of the owners of the forest.

On the other hand, it is not permitted to deny the essence of the right of ownership by the said limitations, restrictions and other requirements.

19. It also needs to be noted in the context of the constitutional justice case at issue that, as it has already been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, wildlife is a specific constituent part of natural environment also in the aspect that inter alia land lots, forests, and water bodies, including those that belongs also to legal and natural persons by right of ownership, constitute the living surroundings of wild animals.

Thus, legal situations are possible where the state, while seeking to ensure the public interest, i.e. protection and rational use of wildlife (its resources), its restoration and augmentation, may and in certain cases must establish the legal regulation whereby the ownership rights of owners of private land lots, forests and water bodies are, to a certain extent, interfered with, however, the essence of the ownership right of these owners is not denied.

20. Construing Article 23 of the Constitution within the context of the imperatives of the protection of wildlife and the ensuring of rational use of its resources, which are consolidated in Article 54 of the Constitution, one must emphasise that, as held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the state is under a constitutional obligation to take care of wildlife and to ensure protection of wildlife as a national value of universal importance, as well as its restoration and augmentation, including, inter alia, the management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals. Thus, while protecting and defending the ownership rights of a person, the public interest that wildlife resources be used, restored and augmented in a rational manner and that wildlife be protected must not be violated. At the junction of these two constitutional values—the ownership rights of a person and the public interest that wildlife resources be used, restored and augmented in a rational manner and that wildlife be protected—it is necessary to find solutions which could ensure a fair balance of these values, i.e. that none of these values will be denied. This requirement is also applicable to passage of the legal acts regulating corresponding social relations as well as to the legal regulation established therein.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue it needs to be noted that in the course of regulation of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations (kinds) of wild animals by means of legal acts, the rights of ownership of owners of private land lots, forests and water bodies may be limited to the extent that it is necessary to seek the said socially important objective, i.e. only to the extent that is necessary to ensure protection of wildlife, rational use of its resources, as well as its restoration and augmentation. If, at the time of seeking the said socially important objective it is inevitably necessary to limit ownership rights (without denying their essence) to a certain extent, there must be a fair balance between the said objective and the chosen means of limitation: only such means of limitation can be established which would limit the right of the owners not more than necessary.

21. While construing the provision that arises from the Constitution that ownership includes obligations with Article 54 of the Constitution, it needs to be emphasised in the constitutional justice case at issue that the owner of private land lots, forests and water bodies, while enjoying the right to possess, use and dispose of his property, cannot violate the imperatives of protection of wildlife and its rational use, its restoration and augmentation that are entrenched in Article 54 of the Constitution.

Implementing its constitutional obligation to take care of wildlife and ensure protection of wildlife as a national value of universal importance, its protection, rational use, restoration and augmentation, the state can establish a corresponding procedure of use of land lots, forests and water bodies, which will have to be followed by all persons, not excluding the owners of private land lots, forests and water bodies. However, the said procedure may not limit the rights and legitimate interests of other persons, including those of the private owners of land lots, forests and water bodies, more than it is necessary in order to achieve the said socially important objective.

22. As mentioned before, hunting is a type of economic activity or a constituent part of wider economic activity.

The constitutional bases of economic activity are established in Article 46 of the Constitution, which provides:

Lithuania’s economy shall be based on the right of private ownership and individual freedom of economic activity and initiative.

The State shall support economic efforts and initiatives that are useful to the society.

The State shall regulate economic activity so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation.

The law shall prohibit monopolisation of production and the market and shall protect freedom of fair competition.

The State shall defend the interests of the consumer.”

23. The petitioner impugns the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting with Article 46 of the Constitution only in the aspect that in his opinion the provision “a hunting unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of integral hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of the said paragraph is in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

24. The provision “Lithuania’s economy shall be based on the right of private ownership and individual freedom of economic activity and initiative” of Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution defines the basis of the national economy, which comprises these values: the right of private ownership, individual freedom of economic activity, as well as initiative (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 14 March 2002). These three values, the right of private ownership, individual freedom of economic activity, as well as initiative, are interrelated; individual freedom of economic activity and initiative cannot be separated from the right of private ownership. In its rulings of 20 April 1995 and 14 March 2002, the Constitutional Court held that freedom of economic activity and initiative are grounded on the innate human freedom and innate right to possess property. In its ruling of 14 March 2002, the Constitutional Court also held that a person’s constitutional right to property is an essential condition for implementation of individual economic freedom and that if a person’s ownership right is limited, individual economic freedom is limited as well. In its ruling of 27 October 1998, the Constitutional Court held that in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution the fundamental role is attached to private ownership—one of the main values, upon which the national economy is based.

In its rulings the Constitutional Court has held more than once that the freedom of individual economic activity and initiative is the whole complex of legal opportunities which creates preconditions for an individual independently to adopt decisions necessary for his economic activity. The constitutional freedom of individual economic activity creates conditions for implementation of various strivings of a person (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 October 1999, 14 March 2002, and 26 January 2004).

The provisions of Article 46 of the Constitution must be construed also in connection with other provisions of the Constitution. In its rulings the Constitutional Court has held more than once that the notion of the freedom of individual economic activity and initiative entrenched in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution is a broad one: it implies, inter alia, the right of a person to freely choose a job and business (occupation), freedom of conclusion of contracts, freedom of fair competition, etc. Freedom of individual economic activity is also inseparable from the requirement to pay heed to equality of rights of economic subjects. Freedom of individual economic activity and initiative also implies opportunities to restructure economic subjects without restrictions, to change the character of their activity, not to obstruct establishment of new economic subjects or liquidate the existing ones when one reacts to changes in the market; it is inseparable from an opportunity of a person, who is willing to engage in an economic activity or, conversely, who is willing to drop it, to get into the market without artificial barriers and to abandon it without artificial barriers.

The Constitutional Court has stressed that the freedom of economic activity is not absolute, a person makes use of it only when he follows certain obligatory requirements and limitations (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 20 April 1995, 18 October 2000, 14 March 2002, and 9 April 2002). However, by the established limitations it is not permitted to deny such essential provisions of freedom of economic activity as equality of rights of economic subjects, fair competition etc. Under the Constitution, the state cannot interfere with the economic activity of a person without limitations (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 20 April 1995).

25. The principles entrenched in Article 46 of the Constitution constitute a whole—the constitutional basis of the economy of this country (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 October 1999, 6 December 2000, and 17 March 2003). The Constitutional Court has held that all provisions of Article 46 of the Constitution are interrelated and supplement one another (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 23 February 2000, 18 October 2000, and 26 January 2004), that the principles established therein are coordinated, that there is a balance among them, that each of these constitutional principles must be construed without denying another constitutional principle (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 October 1999 and 17 March 2003).

Thus, in the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, certain connections of the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution with the provisions of Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the same article should also be mentioned.

26. In Paragraph 2 of Article 46 of the Constitution, as well as in other parts of this article, the obligation of the state to support economic efforts and initiatives that are useful to the society is consolidated, which is also one of the main rules of regulation of the economy of this country (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 October 1998).

While construing the legal regulation entrenched in Paragraph 2 of Article 46 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has held that the provision “the State shall support economic efforts and initiatives that are useful to the society” of this paragraph means that the Constitution provides for an opportunity of state institutions to assess areas of economic activity according to their use to society, that it is permitted to support certain areas of economic activity or certain economic efforts only upon such assessment, also that that such assessment of economic activity creates necessary preconditions for the state to regulate economic activity so that is serves the general welfare of the Nation (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 13 February 1997). The said provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 46 of the Constitution creates constitutional legal preconditions for a possible differentiated regulation of economic activity, the main criterion of which is the general welfare of the Nation.

This provision also implies a duty of state institutions and their officials, as well of municipal institutions and their officials not to hinder by any of their decisions or actions any expression and development of initiative of persons, not to disrupt nor bar the way to their economic efforts provided this initiative or economic activities are not harmful to society, even if their usefulness to society is not evident. Any decision or actions of state institutions and their officials, as well of municipal institutions and their officials, which do not permit the expression and development of the initiative of persons and by which one bars the way to certain economic efforts must be determined by the harmfulness of a respective initiative or economic efforts to society; otherwise, one would deviate from the requirements of Paragraph 2 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

27. The provision “the State shall regulate economic activity so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation” of Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution is also directly linked with the provision “Lithuania’s economy shall be based on the right of private ownership and individual freedom of economic activity and initiative” of Paragraph 1 of the same paragraph. While construing the legal regulation entrenched in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has held that in the course of implementation of individual freedom of economic activity (which, as mentioned before, is not absolute) the interests of society are touched upon in various respects, therefore, the state regulates economic activity; in its rulings the Constitutional Court has held more than once that in the provision “the State shall regulate economic activity so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation” the constitutional principle is entrenched, which draws the objectives, guidelines, ways and limits of regulation of economic activity.

While construing the legal regulation entrenched in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution in a systemic manner (by relating it with, inter alia, the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 1 of the same article), the Constitutional Court has held that the state, while regulating economic activity, must follow the principle of coordination of interests of the person and the society, and ensure the interests of both the private person (a subject of economic activity) and the society (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 18 October 2000, 9 April 2002, 17 March 2003, and 26 January 2004).

As a rule, the regulation of economic activity is linked with the establishment of conditions for economic activity, the regulation of certain procedures, the control over economic activity, as well as with certain limitations or prohibitions on this activity. In its ruling of 31 March 1994, the Constitutional Court held that when a person participates in an economic activity, special limitations (inter alia, limitations on the right of ownership) which are established by law can be applied to him. In its rulings the Constitutional Court has held more than once that under the Constitution it is permitted to limit the rights and freedoms of the person, as well as the freedom of economic activity, if the following conditions are followed: this is done by means of legislation; the limitations are necessary in a democratic society in order to protect the rights and freedoms of other persons and values entrenched in the Constitution, as well as constitutionally important objectives; the limitations do not deny the nature and essence of the rights and freedoms; the constitutional principle of proportionality is followed.

It needs to be noted that the formula “the State shall regulate economic activity” of Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution means not the right of the state to administer all or certain economic activity at its discretion, but its right to establish legal regulation of economic activity, i.e. establishment of limitations (prohibitions) and conditions of economic activity, regulation of procedures in legal acts, as well as such control of economic activity which is based upon limitations (prohibitions), conditions and procedures of economic activity which are established in legal acts. In this context it needs to be noted that in its ruling of 6 October 1999 the Constitutional Court, while construing the legal regulation entrenched in Article 46 of the Constitution, held: “Legal regulation is a form of establishment of certain social order. Peculiarities of legal regulation depend on the specific character of the regulated social relations. One area of such relations is economic activity. The constitutional principle of freedom of individual economic activity and initiative conditions the fact that regulation of economic activity is characteristic of the method of common permission: everything which is not forbidden is allowed. Thus, prohibitions are one of the ways of regulating economic activity. Individual economic activity may be restricted when it is necessary to protect the interests of consumers, fair competition and the other values entrenched in the Constitution. The prohibitions provided for in the law must be reasonable, non-discriminatory and clearly formulated. Due to complexity of economic activity and dynamism of particular relations, regulation in this area may not be the same all the time, i.e. the proportion of prohibitions and permissions may fluctuate, however, in the course of alteration of the content of legal regulation the principles of regulation of the national economy established in the Constitution may not be denied.” It was also held in the same ruling of the Constitutional Court that “an individual may indulge in any economic activity which is not prohibited by law. The prohibition concerning freedom of economic activity of individuals must be clear in every particular case and must be designated for the protection of the values entrenched in the Constitution, i.e. those of fair competition, interests of consumers etc.”

It also needs to be noted that not only the right but also the obligation of the state to regulate economic activity by legal acts so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation is consolidated in the provision “the State shall regulate economic activity so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation” of Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution. Thus, the obligation of the state to seek the general welfare of the Nation and the obligation of the state to regulate, while seeking the general welfare of the Nation, to regulate the economic activity in this country are entrenched in the Constitution. Neither the legislative nor executive branch of power, while enjoying respective empowerments in the area of economic activity, may opt out of this constitutional obligation.

Legal regulation of economic activity is not an end in itself, it is a means of social engineering and a way to seek welfare of the Nation through law. In its rulings the Constitutional Court has held that the right of the state to regulate economic activity which is consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution creates the constitutional preconditions for passing laws by which one reacts to a situation of national economy, the variety of and changes in the economic and social life (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 28 February 1996, 15 March 1996, and 18 October 2000).

It needs to be stressed that Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution clearly indicates the guideline of the legal regulation of economic activity: economic activity must serve the general welfare of the Nation. The Constitutional Court has held that the general welfare of the people is a rather general and broad criterion and in its application one may base oneself on the concept of general welfare as well as the arguments of purposiveness (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 13 February 1997). As a rule, the welfare of the Nation is reflected by consumption of material goods; however, the notion “general welfare of the Nation” should not be construed by only taking account of satisfaction of material needs of the individual, since it is possible to judge the general welfare of the Nation according to various criteria and on various manifestations—social development of the Nation, opportunities of self-expression of the human being etc.; the content of the notion “general welfare of the Nation” is disclosed in each concrete case by taking account of economic, social and other important factors (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 October 1999, 18 October 2000, and 26 January 2004). The Constitutional Court has emphasised that the welfare of the Nation may not be understood only in material (financial) sense and that hardly would it be fair and moral to seek material welfare in such a way which is harmful to people’s health (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 13 February 1997).

Alongside, it needs to be stressed that the notion “general welfare of the Nation” of Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution implies that by means of regulation of economic activity the state must seek the welfare of not individual persons but precisely the general welfare of the Nation. On the other hand, the “general welfare of the Nation” indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution cannot be opposed to the welfare, rights and legitimate interests of the economic subject itself, i.e. the subject the activity of which is regulated, as well as those of other persons who have established and are running the said economic subject or are otherwise related to the said subject. While taking account of the principle of coordination of interests of the person and society which is established in the Constitution, as well as the fact that in the Constitution the individual freedom of economic activity and initiative are linked with the right of private ownership, it is not permitted that the regulation by which the rights and legitimate interests of a certain economic subject are limited more than necessary to ensure the public interest and to protect constitutional values be grounded upon or justified by the general welfare of the Nation indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution; the legal regulation where a certain economic activity is unduly limited or prohibited due to the fact that, from the standpoint of the legislature, it, purportedly, is not useful, although not harmful, to society, cannot be justified by the serving of the economic activity to the welfare of the Nation, either. The guideline of legal regulation of economic activity pointed out in Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution should be construed as a constitutional obligation for the legislature and other institutions of lawmaking to ensure a favourable legal environment for an economic activity which, while satisfying the interests of the economic subject, would also serve the general welfare of the Nation. The Constitutional Court has held that the state, while regulating economic activity, may not establish any such legal regulation whereby unfavourable and unequal economic conditions are established to economic subjects, whereby their initiative is restricted and opportunities for its manifestation are not created (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 9 April 2002). It also needs to be noted that in its rulings of 14 March 2002 and 26 January 2004 the Constitutional Court held that under the Constitution no such legal regulation may be established whereby inappropriate conditions are created for implementation of freedom of economic activity.

28. The constitutional values upon which the national economy is grounded are tightly related with other constitutional values. The provisions of Article 46 of the Constitution must be construed by relating them with other provisions of the Constitution.

28.1. For instance, the Constitutional Court has held that all paragraphs of Article 46 of the Constitution are, first of all, designed for the consolidation and strengthening of private ownership in the economy of this country (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 October 1998). If the legal regulation was established by legal acts, whereby the right of ownership is denied, the freedom of individual economic activity and initiative as well as freedom of fair competition established in Article 46 of the Constitution would be limited in essence and other provisions of Article 46 of the Constitution would be violated (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 23 February 2000).

28.2. Under the Constitution, the state, while regulating economic activity, must pay heed to the constitutional requirement of equality of rights of economic subjects, which is directly related to the principle of equal rights of all persons, which is entrenched in Article 29 of the Constitution. Otherwise, the legal regulation of economic activity would not be considered as one serving the general welfare of the Nation. On the other hand, in its rulings the Constitutional Court has also held more than once that the constitutional principle of equality of rights of persons (of economic subjects in this case) in itself does not deny an opportunity to establish diverse, differentiated legal regulation by means of legislation with respect to certain persons (economic subjects in this case) which belong to different categories, if there exist differences between these persons (economic subjects in this case) of such a character, which objectively justify such differentiated regulation. Differentiated legal regulation, when it is applied to certain groups of persons which are distinguished by the same signs, and in case it strives for positive and socially meaningful goals, or if the establishment of certain limitations or conditions is linked with peculiarities of regulated social relations, is not regarded as discrimination (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 November 1998). Singling out of individual economic subjects and differentiated establishment of their legal situation must be linked with the objectives raised by the state in the sphere of economy, with the striving for respective arrangement of the economy of this country, therefore, the legislature, while taking account of the importance and character of the regulated economic relations, may regulate this activity in a differentiated manner or establish certain conditions for it (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 18 October 2000).

28.3. As mentioned before, due to a specific character, variety and dynamism of economic activity, regulation of concrete relations in this area cannot be the same all the time, i.e. the ratio of prohibitions and permissions is subject to change. In this context it needs to be noted that the legal regulation of economic activity may also be changed in order to ensure the public interest. While changing the legal regulation of relations of economic activity, the state can also change conditions of economic activity or generally establish the legal regulation under which certain economic activity must be discontinued. However, while changing the conditions of economic activity or discontinuing certain economic activity, the state must pay heed to the norms and principles of the Constitution, as well as the principle of protection of legitimate expectations.

The Constitutional Court has held more than once that the principle of protection of legitimate expectations implies a duty of the state and of other state institutions that exercise state power to follow obligations undertaken by the state, that this principle also means protection of acquired rights, i.e. persons have the right to reasonably expect that the rights acquired under valid laws and other legal acts which are not in conflict with the Constitution will be retained for the established time and that it will be possible to implement these rights in reality, that, under the principle of legitimate expectations, it is permitted to change legal regulation only according to a prior established procedure and without violating norms and principles of the Constitution, and that it is not permitted to violate the legitimate interests and legitimate expectations of a person by means of amendments to a legal regulation (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 18 December 2001, 4 March 2003, and 3 December 2003).

In its ruling of 13 December 2004, the Constitutional Court held that there may be factual situations, where the person who meets the conditions established in legal acts, under the said legal acts acquired particular rights and therefore gained expectations, which could be considered by this person to be reasonably legitimate during the period of validity of the said legal acts, therefore, he could reasonably expect that if he obeys law, and fulfils the requirements of the laws, his expectations will be held legitimate by the state and will be defended and protected. Even the legal acts which, on the basis and upon the procedure established in the Constitution and the laws, are later recognised as being in conflict with the Constitution (substatutory legal acts—as being in conflict with the Constitution and/or the laws), may give rise to such expectations.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it needs to be noted that if an economic subject acquired the right to engage in a certain economic activity and implemented this right under valid laws and other legal acts, thus, when the legal regulation of such economic activity is changed so that conditions of this economic activity are worsened or this economic activity is discontinued at all, while taking account of why the legal regulation of the said economic activity is changed and to what extent it is changed, also taking account of other important circumstances, there may arise a duty for the state to recompense (compensate) the economic subjects and other persons the losses which they experience due to the changed legal regulation.

29. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it need to be noted that the bases of the national economy entrenched in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution should be construed by taking account of the provisions of Article 54 as well. The state must regulate economic activity so that, by not denying the bases of the national economy—the right of private ownership and individual freedom of economic activity and initiative—one would also ensure the public interest consolidated in Article 54 of the Constitution, which is protection of natural environment, fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and districts of particular value, ensuring rational use of natural resources, and that of their restoration and augmentation, to guarantee which is a constitutional obligation of the state. By seeking to ensure this public interest, inter alia, seeking to ensure the protection and rational use, restoration and augmentation of wild animals (their resources), the state, while regulating economic activity, can establish specific conditions of economic activity, procedures and means of control, as well as certain limitations or prohibitions on economic activity related with use of respective natural resources.

However, the aforesaid limitations or prohibitions must be established by law. Also, it needs to be stressed that the said limitations, prohibitions, specific conditions of economic activity, procedures and means of control must be necessary in a democratic society in order to seek a socially important objective, they can deny neither the nature nor the essence of freedoms and rights of the person, and the constitutional principle of proportionality must be followed.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be emphasised that the aforesaid limitations, prohibitions, specific conditions of economic activity, procedures and means of control cannot deny the rights of ownership of owners of private land lots, forests and water bodies, nor their freedom of economic activity and initiative.

VIII

On the compliance of the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting and the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

1. The petitioner requests an investigation into whether the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting are not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

The formula “in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law“ of the impugned provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting is set forth in Item 2 of this paragraph.

2. It has been mentioned that the impugned provisions Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting may not be separated from Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law.

Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, prescribes: “Having drafted a preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing their boundaries, the commission specified in Paragraph 3 of this article shall announce this fact in a national and local press and shall set a 1 month period, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements, and other concerned private or legal persons—proposals concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries. Such written proposals and requirements shall be submitted to the commission set forth in Paragraph 3 of this article directly or through wards, in which the land lots owned by the persons who submit proposals or requirements are located. When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry. The commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of this article shall mark the territories, in which hunting is prohibited according to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law until the expiry of the period specified by the persons who set these requirements, in the plan of the hunting plot unit.”

Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, prescribes: “Upon expiry of the period established in Paragraph 9 of this article, the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries, after examining the received requirements or proposals and assessing whether they are in compliance with the requirements provided for in Paragraph 1 of this article, shall decide whether it is expedient to take account of the received proposals, it shall amend, if needed, the project on the forming of the hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and within 1 month submit this project for approval to the head of a respective county.”

Having taken account of the systemic links between Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting with the indicated provisions of Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law, in the process of evaluation whether the impugned provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting are not in conflict with the Constitution, one must assess alongside whether the indicated provisions of Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law are not in conflict with Paragraph 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

3. Having systemically construed the provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting that are impugned by the petitioner together with the indicated provisions of Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law, it was held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that in the Law on Hunting one has entrenched the legal regulation where the owner of a private land lot has the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, but he may do so only on the grounds and only upon the procedure that is established in Paragraph 2 of Article 7, Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8, and Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting.

4. Pursuant to the Constitution, the legislature, when regulating the relations of hunting and those linked therewith, may not establish the legal regulation where hunting may be permitted in the private land lots located in the hunting plots without permission of the owners of these particular land lots. In this regard the owner may not be subject to any restrictions on the grounds established in any legal acts, in the absence of which one could pay no heed of his will that no hunting should take place in the land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right. If it is intended to use a land lot owned by the person by right of ownership for hunting, the owner of this lot must be informed in a due manner—directly, and a reasonable, thus, a sufficient period must be established, during which the owner could have a realistic opportunity to express freely his will concerning the fact of whether one may or may not hunt in this lot, as well as under what circumstances does he agree that hunting may take place in this lot.

In this context, it should be noted that the ownership rights of the owner would not be automatically violated by such legal regulation where the fact that the failure of the owner of the private land lot which is located in hunting plots, whose land is intended to be used for hunting and who has been duly informed of this, to express his will whether hunting may or may not take place in this particular lot within the reasonable time is considered to be his consent that hunting may take place in that lot. Moreover, it is worth noting that one may establish by law various forms and procedure of expressing the consent of the owner of the private land lot which is located in hunting plots that hunting may take place in that lot, inter alia, that agreements may be concluded concerning the granting of the right to hunt in the land lot of the owner.

5. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that while the hunting plot unit is under formation the owner may implement his right to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is located in hunting plots owned by him only on the grounds established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting and only upon the procedure established in Paragraphs 9 and 10 of Article 8 of this law. Moreover, it has been held that in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting the sole ground, in the existence of which the owner may implement the aforementioned right of his own, is that agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting. It was held also that according to Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting a decision whether to take into account the requirements of the owner of the land lot and, while forming a respective hunting plot unit to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is located in hunting plots owned by this particular owner, is made by the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting, thus, even in the cases where the owner of the land lot which is located in hunting plots does not agree that hunting takes place in his land lot and his disagreement is based on the threat of damage to agricultural crops or forest, the commission may take no account of the requirements of the owner and decide without his consent that hunting will take place in that particular land lot. In addition, it was held that in this way prerequisites are created for the originations of such legal situations where against the will of the owner of private land or a water body certain commission decides on his behalf that hunting will take place in the land lot, forest of water body belonging to him under the ownership right.

By such legal regulation one interferes in the right of the owner of private land, forests or water bodies to decide whether the land, forests or water bodies belonging to him under the private ownership right may be used for hunting, thus, the ownership rights of owners of private land, forests, or water bodies become unreasonably restricted.

6. It has been held also in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the fact that in Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting one has established the procedure, upon which the owner is informed that the land lot owned by him is intended to be assigned to hunting plot unit, and a period (of 1 month) is established, during which the owner may submit to the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting the requirements related to the use of the land lot which is located in hunting plots and owned by him for hunting, including the requirement to prohibit hunting in that particular land lot, creates prerequisites for the origination of such legal situations where the owner of the land lot which is located in hunting plots does not even know about the formed hunting plot unit, and thus, he may not make use of his right that he is entitled to under the Law on Hunting to submit to the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting the requirements related to the use of the land lot which is located in hunting plots and owned by him for hunting, including the requirement to prohibit hunting in that particular land lot.

Thus, in Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting one has established such way of informing the owner about the fact that the land lot owned by him is intended to be assigned to a hunting plot unit and such period, during which the owner may submit to the commission established in the Law on Hunting the requirements related to the use of the land lot which is located in hunting plots and which is owned by him for hunting, including the requirement to prohibit hunting in that particular land lot, that the owner may found himself in a situation where the right, to which he is entitled under the Law on Hunting, to submit to the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting the requirements related to the use of the land lot which is located in hunting plots and which is owned by him for hunting, including the requirement to prohibit hunting in that particular land lot, cannot be implemented. By such legal regulation one interferes in the right to the owner of private land, forests or water bodies to decide, whether the land, forests, or water bodies belonging to him by right of ownership may be used for hunting, thus, the ownership rights of owners of private land, forests, or water bodies become unreasonably restricted.

7. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that a person, who acquired a land lot as ownership from another owner, which is already included in a particular, already formed hunting plot unit, has the right under the Law on Hunting to prohibit hunting in that particular lot, but he may implement it only on the basis established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this law and only within a certain period (within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry), moreover, a decision whether to grant or not the requirement of the new owner to prohibit hunting in the land lot owned by him is made not by the owner himself, but by the commission indicated in the Law on Hunting.

By such legal regulation one interferes in the right to the owner of private land, forests or water bodies to decide, whether the land, forests, or water bodies belonging to him by right of ownership may be used for hunting. Thus, by such legal regulation the ownership rights of owners of private land, forests, or water bodies become unreasonably restricted.

8. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that according to the Law on Hunting the owner of the land lot which is located in hunting plots has no right, after the respective hunting plot unit is formed, to prohibit hunting in the land lot which is owned by him and already included in that hunting plot unit. It is established in the Law on Hunting that only the aforementioned new owner enjoys such a right.

In this regard the ownership rights of owners of private land, forests, or water bodies become unreasonably restricted as well.

9. Having taken account of the above-mentioned arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that:

the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it does not provide for the right of the owner of a private land lot to prohibit, without any restrictions, hunting in the land owned by him not only if damage will be inflicted during hunting upon agricultural crops or forest, but in all other cases as well, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and to the extent that it establishes the period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, as well as the provision “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted only through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry” of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him by the ownership right, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

10. Having held that, according to the Constitution, the legislature may not establish any such legal regulation where hunting in the private land lots which are located in hunting plots is permitted without the consent of the owners of the aforementioned land lots, and that in this regard the owner may not be subject to restrictions on any grounds established in legal acts, in the absence of which one could pay no heed of his will that no hunting should take place in the land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right, however, one may establish by law various forms and procedure of expressing the consent of the owner of the private land lot which is located in hunting plots that hunting may take place in that lot, in addition, having held that the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it does not provide for the right of the owner of a private land lot to prohibit, without any restrictions, hunting in the land owned by him not only if damage will be inflicted during hunting upon agricultural crops or forest, but in all other cases as well, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution, one should hold that in itself the provision “Hunting is prohibited in: <…> (2) land lots located in the hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

IX

On the compliance of the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

1. The petitioner requests an investigation into whether the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area, save the cases where smaller hunting plot units are established for scientific and education purposes upon the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, or where such units are established in the territories of fishery ponds upon the proposal of the Ministry of Agriculture” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

2. It is obvious from the petition of the petitioner that he had doubts only concerning the compliance of the part of the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area”, but not the whole provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

3. It was mentioned that hunting is a type of economic activity or a constituent part of broader economic activity of a person. In order to ensure the public interest—protection and rational use, as well as restoration and augmentation of wildlife (its resources)—the state, by regulating hunting as an economic activity, may establish specific conditions of economic activity by law, inter alia, the sizes of hunting plots; they are established after taking account of, inter alia, the size of resources of huntable animals and the need to regulate their abundance. By doing so, one must follow the constitutional principle of proportionality and not deny the ownership rights of owners of private land lots, forests, and water bodies, as well as freedom and initiative of their economic activity.

4. Moreover, it is worth noting that, as it was held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, pursuant to the Constitution, the legislature may not establish any such legal regulation, where hunting would be permitted in private land lots, which are located in hunting plots, with the consent of owners of that land lots, and that in this regard the owner may not be subject to restrictions on the grounds established in any legal acts, in the absence of which one could pay no heed of his will that no hunting should take place in the land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right, however, one may establish by law various forms and procedure of expressing the consent of the owner of the private land lot which is located in hunting plots that hunting may take place in that lot. It was held also in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it does not provide for the right of the owner of a private land lot to prohibit, without any restrictions, hunting in the land owned by him not only if damage will be inflicted during hunting upon agricultural crops or forest, but in all other cases as well, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

5. When deciding as to whether the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution in regard to the aspect that it establishes the minimum size of a hunting plot unit, it should to be held that the establishment of the minimum size of a hunting plot unit by law as one of the means by which one strives to ensure a rational use (i.e. regulation and control) of populations of huntable animals, does not violate itself the ownership rights of the owners of private land lots, forests, and water bodies, as well as the freedom and initiative of their economic activity, that are defended, inter alia, under Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution, which is indicated by the petitioner.

6. When deciding whether the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution in regard to the aspect that the established minimum size of a hunting plot unit amounts namely to 1000 ha, it should to be held that there are not enough legal arguments proving that this size does not match the amount of resources of huntable wild animals and the need to regulate their abundance and that due to this it should be different.

7. Having considered the aforementioned arguments, it should be concluded that the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution.

X

On the compliance of Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

1. The petitioner requests an investigation into whether Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

2. It is established in Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting: “The damage inflicted by huntable animals shall not be recovered, if it is made in the land lots whose owner has prohibited hunting upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law.”

3. When deciding, whether Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution, it should be noted that, as already held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the state enjoys the constitutional duty to ensure proper management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations of wild animals (their species) and that hunting is one of the ways of management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations of wild animals (their species), as well as that having not ensured proper management (i.e. regulation and control) of populations of wild animals (their species) prerequisites would be created to inflict damage upon various values entrenched in and protected and defended by the Constitution, thus, the rights and interests of a person as well.

In the Constitution one has consolidated the imperative that ownership includes obligations. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that according to the Constitution one must establish such legal regulation, which would consolidate the duty of the owners themselves to efficiently contribute to the public interest that is entrenched in the Constitution—protection of natural environment, fauna and flora, individual objects of nature and especially valuable territories, as well as rational use, restoration and augmentation of natural resources—inter alia, ensuring proper management of populations of wild animals (their species).

If the owner of private land, forest, or a water body prohibits hunting in the land owned by him, administration (i.e. regulation and control) of populations of animals (their species) in the respective territory becomes also more difficult in the aspect that in this way one may inflict damage on legal rights and interests of the owner himself, including the fact that huntable animals may cause certain damage to the aforementioned owners. The owner who has prohibited hunting of huntable animals in the land owned by him accepts respective risk; there is no reason to require the above-mentioned damage to be recovered by someone else.

4. It is obvious from the petition of the petitioner that he had doubts concerning the fact whether Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution and concerning the fact that in this paragraph reference is made to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this law.

5. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it does not provide for the right of the owner of a private land lot to prohibit, without any restrictions, hunting in the land owned by him not only if damage will be inflicted during hunting upon agricultural crops or forest, but in all other cases as well, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

However, the fact that in Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting one refers to Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this law, which is in conflict with the Constitution to the aforementioned extent, is not in itself a reason for recognising that Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with the Constitution (inter alia, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 thereof) as well.

6. Having taken into account the above-mentioned arguments, it should be concluded that Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

XI

On the compliance of certain provisions of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting with the Constitution.

1. It has been mentioned that the provisions (impugned by the petitioner) of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, regarding the prohibitions on hunting and the sizes of hunting plot units are also linked with the provisions of the Law on Hunting that are aimed at ensuring a transition from relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on former legal regulation, to relations of hunting and those linked therewith, based on the legal regulation established by the Law on Hunting. These provisions are set forth, inter alia, in Article 22 of the Law on Hunting.

2. Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, inter alia, prescribes:

<…> 2. Users of hunting plots, who used hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of this Law and who used them without violating requirements of legal acts, until 1 April 2003 shall submit petitions to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law, and hunting plots used by them shall be recognised hunting plot units and permissions to hunt resources of huntable animals that exist in them shall be issued while following the continuity of use of hunting plots, and in accordance with the procedure established in this article.

3. Users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following:

1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>

6. Users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha may agree with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots, by consolidating this fact in the document specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article and submitting a joint petition to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law on recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot unit. In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission.

7. Before recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot units under the continuity of their use, one must follow the conditions specified in Paragraphs 9, 10, and 11 of Article 8 of this Law. <…>”

3. The aforementioned provisions of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting are linked, inter alia, with the implementation of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting.

It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that:

the provision “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area” of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of the Constitution;

Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and to the extent that it establishes the period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, as well as the provision of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted only through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry” is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution;

Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

4. It has been mentioned that according to Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting the hunting plots which were used by the users of hunting plots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting are recognised as hunting plot units even after the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting, save the hunting plots (their parts), which were leased under agreements on hunting plot lease, concluded with owners and managers of hunting lots on and after 29 December 2001.

5. According to the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania that were approved by the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Approval of the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, the right to use resources of huntable animals in a certain land lot belonged to the owner of that land; the owner could either use or not to use this right himself, or transfer it to other private or legal persons under an agreement on hunting plot lease; hunting in the hunting plots belonging to other persons without the right to use hunting plots, which is transferred by an agreement on hunting plot lease, was prohibited.

When, by the Government Resolution (No. 1132) “On Amending the Government Resolution (No. 425) ‘On the Approval of the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania’ of 14 April 2000“ of 15 July 2002, which became effective on 20 July 2002, one changed the legal regulation established in the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania (with their subsequent amendments) that were approved by the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Approval of the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, the provision was removed from these regulations that the owner may transfer the right to use huntable animals in a concrete land plot to other private or legal persons under an agreement on hunting plot lease.

Thus, according to the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania (with their subsequent amendments) which were approved by the Government Resolution (No. 425) “On the Approval of the Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania” of 14 April 2000, agreements on hunting plot lease could be concluded until 20 July 2002, i.e. they could be concluded not only until 29 December 2001, on 29 December 2001 and during a certain period afterwards.

It should be noted that in the Law on Hunting one does not specify the way how the state compensates for the loss which may be incurred to the owners of the land or the persons who have entered into the aforementioned agreements with them due to the legal regulation which was changed in this regard.

6. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that owners of private land, forests, or water bodies, who have entered, according to the legal acts that were effective at that time, into agreements on hunting plot lease with other persons (users of these plots), could reasonably expect that these agreements shall be implemented for the whole period that is established therein, that the state (its institutions) will take no measures to prevent the lessees from executing their obligations under these agreements, and that private and legal persons, who have leased, according to the legal acts that were effective at that time, land, forests, or water bodies intended for hunting (users of hunting plots), could reasonably expect that they will be able to use the leased land, forests, or water bodies for hunting during the whole period and under the conditions established in the aforementioned agreements and that the state (its institutions) will take no measures to prevent them from enjoying their rights indicated in the above-mentioned agreements.

The persons who concluded agreements on hunting plot lease that were indicated in the Regulations on Hunting in the Territory of Lithuania within the period of 29 December 2001 to 20 July 2002, had these expectations as well.

7. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the state, when changing the legal regulation of relations of economic activity, may change alongside conditions of economic activity or even establish such legal regulation, according to which certain economic activity must be terminated, however, when changing the conditions of economic activity or terminating certain economic activity the state must pay heed, inter alia, to the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations, which is entrenched in the Constitution and implies the protection of acquired rights as well. It should to be held that, if an economic subject, according to the effective laws or other legal acts, acquired the right to engage in certain economic activity and implemented this right, when changing the legal regulation of such economic activity so that conditions of this economic activity are aggravated or this economic activity is even terminated, having taken account of the reason why the legal regulation of the aforementioned economic activity is changed and the scope of changes, moreover, having taken into account of other important circumstances, the duty may originate to the state to recover (compensate) to economic subjects and other persons loss, which was incurred to them due to changing the aforementioned legal regulation.

8. By the legal regulation established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting one denied the expectations of the owners of private land, forests, and water bodies which arose under the agreements on hunting plot lease concluded with other persons (users of these plots) from 29 December 2001 to 30 July 2002 pursuant to the legal acts that were effective at that time, that these contracts will be implemented for the whole period established therein and that the state (its institutions) will take no measures to prevent the lessees from executing their obligations under these agreements, and the expectations of private and legal persons, who have leased within the period of 29 December 2001 to 20 July 2002, according to the legal acts that were effective at that time, land, forests, or water bodies (users of hunting plots), that they will be able to use the leased land, forests, or water bodies for hunting during the whole period and under the conditions established in the aforementioned agreements and that the state (its institutions) will take no measures to prevent them from enjoying their rights indicated in the above-mentioned agreements.

9. Having taken account of the above-mentioned arguments, it should be concluded that the part “prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001)” of the provision “The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following: (1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>” of Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with the constitutional principle of protection of legitimate expectations.

10. It has been mentioned that in the Law on Hunting one did not establish the way, how the state compensates for loss suffered by land owners due to the fact that by the legal regulation established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting one denied the expectations of the owners of private land, forests, and water bodies which arose under the agreements on hunting plot lease concluded with other persons (users of these plots) from 29 December 2001 to 30 July 2002 pursuant to the legal acts that were effective at that time, and the expectations of private and legal persons, who leased land, forests, or water bodies (users of hunting plots) within the period of 29 December 2001 to 20 July 2002, according to the legal acts that were effective at that time.

In this way one created prerequisites for violating the private ownership rights of the aforementioned persons that are protected by Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

11. Having taken into account of the above-mentioned arguments, it should be concluded that the part “prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001)” of the provision “The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following: (1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>” of Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

12. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that due to the legal regulation established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting users of hunting plot, who entered into agreements on hunting plot lease on and after 29 December 2001, found themselves in a different position than users of hunting plots, who entered into agreements on hunting plot lease prior to 29 December 2001.

13. Having held that the part “prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001)” of the provision “The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following: (1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>” of Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with the constitutional principle of protection of legitimate expectations and that due to the legal regulation established in Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting the users of a hunting plot who entered into agreements on hunting plot lease on and after 29 December 2001, found themselves in a different position than users of hunting plots, who have entered into agreements on hunting plot lease prior to 29 December 2001, it should also be held that in regard of these persons the principle of equality of all persons which is consolidated in Article 29 of the Constitution was violated.

14. Having taken account of the aforementioned arguments, it should be concluded that the part “prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001)” of the provision “The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following: (1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>” of Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution.

15. It was mentioned that the provisions “Users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha may agree with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots, by consolidating this fact in the document specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 3 of this article and submitting a joint petition to the commission indicated in Paragraph 3 of Article 8 of this Law on recognising the hunting plots as hunting plot unit” and “In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission” of Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting mean that the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units in the cases where users of hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha by 1 April 2003 fail to reach an agreement with users of communicating hunting plots concerning the increase of hunting plots up to 1000 ha or merger of these plots is made by the commission of a respective municipality and that in this way prerequisites are created for the emergence of the situations where persons, who formed and registered hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha territory, may not use them for hunting after 1 April 2003.

It should be noted that in the Law on Hunting one does not establish the way how the state compensates the losses which may be incurred to the aforementioned persons due to the legal regulation that changed in this regard.

16. According to legal acts that were effective prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Hunting (majority of provisions thereof), one could form also hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha. It was mentioned that on the basis of such legal regulation certain hunting plot units were formed, registered and used for hunting.

It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that persons, who formed individual hunting plot units according to legal acts that were effective at that time, could reasonably expect that they will be able to use these hunting plot units for hunting until the origination of circumstances established in laws, due to which it would become reasonably impossible to continue using these hunting plot units for hunting.

By the legal regulation established in Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting one has denied the expectations of the persons who, according to legal acts that were effective at that time, have formed individual hunting plot units that they will be able to use these hunting plot units for hunting until the origination of circumstances established in laws, due to which it would become reasonably impossible to continue using these hunting plot units for hunting.

17. Having taken account of the aforementioned facts, it should be concluded that the provision “In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission” of Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with the constitutional principle of protection of legitimate expectations.

18. It was mentioned that in the Law on Hunting one does not establish the way, how the state compensates the losses which may be incurred to persons, who have formed and registered hunting plots comprising less than 1000 ha territory according to legal acts that were effective at that time but who became unable to use them for hunting after 1 April 2003, due to the fact that by the legal regulation established in Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting one denied their expectations that they will be able to use these hunting plot units for hunting until the origination of circumstances established in laws, due to which it would become reasonably impossible to continue using these hunting plot units for hunting.

In this way prerequisites were created for the violation of the private ownership right of the aforementioned persons, which is protected by Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution, as well.

19. Having taken account of the above-mentioned arguments, it should be concluded that the provision “In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission” of Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution.

20. It was mentioned that according to Paragraph 7 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting, until the moment when hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow the conditions established in Paragraphs 9, 10 and 11 of Article 8 of this law.

21. It has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and to the extent that it establishes the period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, as well as the provision “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted only through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry”, of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution. Moreover, it has been held that Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right.

22. Having held the aforementioned, it should be held that Paragraph 7 of Article 22 of the Law on Hunting is also in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution:

to the extent that it consolidates that until the moment when hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries;

to the extent that it consolidates that until hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it establishes a period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries;

to the extent that it consolidates that until hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow the provision of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry”;

to the extent that it consolidates that until hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow the part of Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right.

Conforming to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 54, 55, and 56 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

ruling:

1. To recognise that the provision “It shall be prohibited to hunt <…> (2) in the land lots located in hunting plots, if their owners have prohibited hunting therein upon the procedure established in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 7 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

2. To recognise that the provision of Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting “A hunting plot unit must comprise at least 1000 ha of continuous hunting area” is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

3. To recognise that Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting, to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, and to the extent that it establishes the period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries, as well as the provision “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted only through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry” of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

4. To recognise that Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

5. To recognise that the provision “The owner of a private land lot, whose land is intended to be assigned or is already assigned to a hunting plot unit according to the procedure established in Article 8 of this Law, shall have the right to prohibit hunting in the land owned by him, if agricultural crops or forest will suffer damage during the hunting” of Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting to the extent that it does not provide for the right of the owner of a private land lot to prohibit, without any restrictions, hunting in the land owned by him not only if damage will be inflicted during hunting upon agricultural crops or forest, but in all other cases as well, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

6. To recognise that Paragraph 7 of Article 18 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting is not in conflict with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

7. To recognise that the part “prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001)” of the provision “The users of hunting plots that are indicated in Paragraph 2 of this Law, together with respective petition must submit the following: (1) agreement on hunting plot lease, which is registered upon the procedure established in Regulations on Hunting in the Republic of Lithuania, concluded with owners and administrators of land lots prior to the date of coming into effect of the Law on Amending the Law on Wildlife (29 December 2001), schemes of leased hunting plots inclusive; <…>” Paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23, Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, and the constitutional principle of protection of legitimate expectations.

8. To recognise that the provision “In case of failure to reach an agreement on increase of the hunting plot unit so that it reaches the specified size by 1 April 2003, the final decision on setting boundaries of hunting plot units, while taking into account objectives established in Paragraph 1 of Article 8 of this Law, shall be made by the aforementioned commission” of Paragraph 6 of Article 22 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of protection of legitimate expectations.

9. To recognise that Paragraph 7 of Article 22 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Hunting to the extent that it consolidates that until the moment when hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow: (1) Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it prescribes that the owner of a private land lot is informed about the fact that the land lot belonging to him by right of ownership is intended to be used for hunting not directly, but only when the commission of a respective municipality informs in national and local press about the prepared preliminary project on the forming of hunting plot unit or changing its boundaries; (2) Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it consolidates that until hunting plots are recognised as hunting plot units pursuant to continuity of their use, one must follow Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it establishes a period of 1 month, during which the persons indicated in Paragraph 2 of Article 13 of this Law may submit to the commission of a respective municipality written requirements concerning the project on the forming of hunting plot units or changing its boundaries; (3) the provision “When the owner of a land lot changes, such petition must be submitted through the ward, in which the land lot is located, within 1 month from the date of registration of the ownership right at the Real Estate Registry” of Paragraph 9 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting; (4) Paragraph 10 of Article 8 of the Law on Hunting to the extent that it prescribes that the Commission on Formation of Hunting Plot Units and Changing Their Boundaries may also take no account of the will of the owner of a private land, forest, or water body that no hunting should take place in the private land, forest, or water body belonging to him under the ownership right, is in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 23 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:            Armanas Abramavičius

                                                                                 Toma Birmontienė

                                                                                 Egidijus Kūris

                                                                                 Kęstutis Lapinskas

                                                                                 Zenonas Namavičius

                                                                                 Ramutė Ruškytė

                                                                                 Vytautas Sinkevičius

                                                                                 Stasys Stačiokas

                                                                                 Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis