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On the decisions regarding the refusal to accept petitions

Case No. 44/03

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF ITEM 2 OF PARAGRAPH 1 OF ARTICLE 10, PARAGRAPH 4 OF ARTICLE 10 AND ARTICLE 16 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON PETITIONS WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 

26 January 2006

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

Jadvyga Andriuškevičiūtė, senior advisor of the Law Department of the Office of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Article 1 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in its public hearing, on 24 January 2006, considered case No. 44/03 subsequent to the petition of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 of Article 10 and Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, considered an administrative case. By its ruling, the court suspended the consideration of the case and applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 of Article 10 and Article 16 of the Law on Petitions (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 66-2128; correction—Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1999, No. 104) is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution.

II

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

According to Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, it is possible to lodge a complaint about the decision of the petitions commissions not to recognise the application as a petition, as well as decisions to refuse to accept a petition for consideration respectively to the Seimas, the Government Chancellor or the municipal council. The decisions of these institutions and the Government Chancellor to refuse to grant the appeal are final and not subject to appeal (Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions). The decisions of the Seimas, the Government and the municipal council regarding the granting of the demands and proposals put forward in the petitions shall also be final and not subject to appeal.

In the opinion of the petitioner, these provisions of Article 16 and of Paragraph 4 of Article 10 deny the constitutional right of the person to apply to court (Paragraph 1 of Article 30 of the Constitution), the constitutional right of the citizens to apply against the decisions of State institutions or their officials (Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution) and restrict the procedure for implementing the right of petition of the citizens (Paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution).

III

In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written explanations from D. Petrylaitė and J. Andriuškevičiūtė, the representatives of the Seimas, the party concerned, were received, where it is stated that Paragraph 4 of Article 10 and Article 16 of the Law on Petitions are not in conflict with the Constitution. The representatives of the Seimas ground their position on the following arguments.

1. According to D. Petrylaitė, the right of petition needs to be distinguished from the right of the citizens to criticise the work of State institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions, entrenched in Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution. A petition is not just any application of the person to the Seimas, the Government or the municipal institutions, but that related to the demands or proposals to resolve the issues specified in the Law on Petitions, when for this it is necessary to amend, supplement an effective legal act or declare it as no longer valid, or to adopt a new legal act. The principle of the separation of powers does not permit a court to obligate the Seimas or the Government to implement the powers that were assigned to them, thus, according to D. Petrylaitė, the decisions of the Seimas, the Government and the municipal council regarding the granting of the demands and proposals put forward in the petitions are not subject to appeal to court.

2. In the opinion of J. Andriuškevičiūtė, according to Articles 9, 10 and others, the person’s right of petition is implemented in several stages. When the application is recognised as a petition, the petitions commission also decides whether to accept the petition for consideration. Another stage should be related with the right to appeal against decisions of the petitions commission. While deciding whether the application should be recognised as a petition, as well as while considering the complaint about the decision of the petitions commissions not to recognise the application as a petition, the demands or proposals are investigated in substance, because the application can only be recognised as a petition if the demands set forth therein may be put forward in a petition.

According to J. Andriuškevičiūtė, the right to apply against the decisions of State institutions or their officials may be implemented not only by applying to court, but also to other competent institutions. The right of petition of the citizens to apply against the decisions of State institutions or their officials, regulated in Article 10 of the Law on Petitions is implemented by extra-judicial procedure. According to Paragraph 4 of this article, the complaint may be granted and the application may be recognised as a petition; the impugned provision “a decision to refuse to grant the complaint shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal” of this paragraph consolidates one of the cases of the outcome of the considered complaints. According to Articles 12, 13 and 14 of the Law on Petitions, after the petition is considered, the petitions commissions submit the proposals on the meeting of the demands and proposals put forward in the petition to the appropriate institutions, and, according to Article 15, these proposals are considered respectively at the Seimas, the Government or the municipal council, and a decision is adopted on that. According to Article 16 of the Law on Petitions, it shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal. The consideration of the demands or proposals put forward in the petition is not subject to judicial dispute.

IV

In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written explanations from M. Petrauskienė, Chairperson of the Seimas Petitions Commission, and P. Koverovas, State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, were received.

V

At the hearing of the Constitutional Court, J. Andriuškevičiūtė, the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned, virtually repeated the arguments set forth in the written explanations.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

1. The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 of Article 10 and Article 16 of the Law on Petitions is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution.

2. On 7 July 1999, the Seimas adopted the Law on Petitions that came into force on 1 October 1999. This law was more than once amended and supplemented, however, its Paragraph 4 of Article 10 and Article 16 have not been amended or supplemented.

3. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 10, the person has the right to lodge a complaint about the decision of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition as well as to refuse to accept the petition for consideration to: the Seimas—in the case of a decision taken by the Seimas Petition Commission, the Government Chancellor—in the case of a decision taken by the Government Petitions Commission, and the municipal council—in the case of a decision taken by the municipal petitions commission. Under Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, the decision of the Seimas, the Government Chancellor and the municipal council to refuse to grant the complaint shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.

4. Even though the petitioner requests an investigation into whether whole Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions is not in conflict with the Constitution, it is obvious from the arguments of the petition of the petitioner that he had doubts only on whether this paragraph is not in conflict with the Constitution to the extent that it prescribes that a decision to refuse to grant the complaint about the decision of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition or not to accept the petition for consideration shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.

5. In Article 16 of the Law on Petitions which is impugned by the petitioner it is prescribed that the decisions of the Seimas, the Government and the municipal council regarding the granting of the demands and proposals put forward in the petitions shall be final and not subject to appeal.

II

1. The right of the citizens to participate in the governance of their state is entrenched in the Constitution (Paragraph 1 of Article 33 of the Constitution). The constitutional right of petition is one of the rights, by implementing which the citizens may participate in the governance of their state. In the legal system of Lithuania, like in those of most European countries, a petition is usually understood as an appeal of an individual or a group to institutions of public power, which contains a demand (proposal) to resolve a certain issue, important not only to the petitioner but also to the society or part thereof, when for this it is necessary to amend, supplement an effective legal act or declare it as no longer valid, or to adopt a new legal act.

2. Under Paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution, the procedure for implementing the right of petition shall be established by law. Thus, the legislature has the duty to regulate the relations of petitions not through any legal act, but precisely by means of the law in which all the most important elements of the procedure for implementing the right of petition would be established, i.e. for what reason it is possible to apply with a petition; with what institutions of public power petitions may be filed; formal requirements that the petition must comply with; the procedure of application with the petition, the procedure for the adoption of decisions refusing to accept a petition and for appealing against such decisions; etc.

According to the Constitution, while establishing the procedure for implementing the right of petition by law, the legislature enjoys certain discretion, though he cannot deny the essence of the petition itself, artificially restrict or groundlessly burden the implementation of this constitutional right of citizens.

3. The powers of the Seimas and the Government, as of the institutions that implement state power, are established in the Constitution, however, while paying heed to the Constitution, one can also established them by law.

In Paragraph 2 of Article 120 of the Constitution it is prescribed that municipalities shall act freely and independently within their competence defined by the Constitution and laws.

According to the Constitution, the Seimas, the Government and the municipal councils have the right to freely decide which demands (proposals) put forward in a petition of citizens should be granted and which not.

4. The concept of the constitutional right of petition implies that the constitutional right of petition of the citizen is considered as the one which has been implemented, when a certain institution of public power that has certain authorities considers the submitted petition and makes a decision on granting or not granting the demands (proposals) put forward in the petition.

5. Under Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, the citizens shall be guaranteed the right to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions. This constitutional right of the citizens is only one of the rights, implementing which the citizens may also participate in the governance of their state. The said provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution may not be construed only literally, it should be construed from Article 124 of the Constitution, under which acts or actions of municipal councils as well as of their executive bodies and officials, which violate the rights of citizens and organisations, may be appealed in court. Thus, under Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, the citizens shall be guaranteed the right to criticise not only the work of State institutions but also of the municipal institutions or their officials and to appeal not only against the decisions of the state institutions but also of the municipal institutions or their officials.

In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be noted that the rights of the citizens to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions, which are entrenched in Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, may not be identified with the right of petition of the citizens, which is entrenched in Paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution, as each of these rights has its own specific contents, which implies, inter alia, a different procedure for implementation of these rights, as well as certain peculiarities of their protection.

III

On the compliance of Article 16 of the Law on Petitions with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution

1. It has been mentioned that in Article 16 of the Law on Petitions it is prescribed that the decisions of the Seimas, the Government and the municipal council regarding granting the demands and proposals put forward in the petitions shall be final and not subject to appeal.

2. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 2 of the Law on Petitions, the citizens, while implementing the right of petition, may appeal in a prescribed manner by the Law on Petitions to the Seimas, the Government or institutions of local self-government and governance, thus, also to municipal councils. The petition means a petitioner’s written application addressed to the Seimas, the Government or institutions of local self-government and governance, which contains demands or proposals to resolve the issues specified in Paragraph 1 of Article 3 of this law, when for this it is necessary to adopt a new legal act, or amend or supplement an effective legal act, or to declare it as no longer valid, and which is recognised as a petition by the petitions commissions (Paragraph 4 of Article 2).

3. In this ruling of the Constitutional Court, it has been held that, under the Constitution, the Seimas, the Government and the municipal councils have the right to freely decide which demands (proposals) put forward in the petition of the citizens should be granted and which not. It has also been held that the concept of the constitutional right of petition implies that the constitutional right of petition of the citizen is considered as the one which has been implemented, when a certain institution of public power that has certain empowerments considers the submitted petition and makes a decision on granting or not granting the demands (proposals) put forward in the petition.

4. Under Article 16 of the Law on Petitions, the decisions of the Seimas, the Government or the municipal council shall be final and not subject to appeal only in the cases, when the Seimas, the Government or the municipal council considers a petition and makes a decision on granting the demands and proposals put forward in the petition. After the said decision of the Seimas, the Government or the municipal council has been made, the constitutional right of petition of the citizen has been implemented. Thus, the legal regulation established in Article 16 of the Law on Petitions does not deny the right of petition of citizens, nor restricts its implementation. Consequently, there are no legal arguments on the grounds of which it would be possible to state that the legal regulation established in Article 16 of the Law on Petitions violates Paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution

5. While deciding, whether Article 16 of the Law on petitions is not in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, according to which the citizens shall have the right to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions, it should be noted that, as it has been held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the rights of the citizens to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions entrenched in Paragraph 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution may not be identified with the right of petition of the citizens, which is entrenched in Paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution. Thus, the legal regulation, established in Article 16 of the Law on Petitions does not deny the constitutional right of the citizens to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions, nor restricts its implementation.

6. Having held that the legal regulation, established in Article 16 of the Law on Petitions neither denies the right of petition of the citizens, entrenched in the Constitution, nor the constitutional right to criticise the work of State institutions or their officials and to appeal against their decisions, nor restricts its implementation, it should also be held that the right of a person, whose constitutional rights or freedoms are violated, to apply to court, entrenched in Paragraph 1 of Article 30 of the Constitution, is not violated.

7. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be drawn that Article 16 of the Law on Petitions is not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution.

IV

On the compliance of Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution.

1. It has been mentioned that the petitioner had doubts on whether Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions is not in conflict with the Constitution to the extent that it prescribes that the decision to refuse to grant the complaint about a decision of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition or not to accept the petition for consideration shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.

2. In the Law on Petitions such legal regulation is entrenched, under which the decision on whether to recognise an application of the citizens as a petition, as well as whether to accept the petition for consideration is made accordingly by the Seimas Petitions Commission set up by the Seimas, the Government Petitions Commission set up by the Government or the municipal petitions commissions set up by the municipal councils (Paragraphs 3, 4 and 5 of Article 6). In the Law on Petitions the grounds are established according to which the petitions commissions do not recognise an application as a petition (Paragraph 3 of Article 9), as well as the grounds on which the petitions commissions refuse to accept the petition for consideration (Paragraphs 7 and 8 of Article 9).

It has been mentioned that, under Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, the decisions of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition, as well as the decisions to refuse to accept the petition for consideration may be appealed accordingly to: the Seimas—in the case of the decision taken by the Seimas Petition Commission, the Government Chancellor—in the case of a decision taken by the Government Petitions Commission and the municipal council—in the case of a decision taken by the municipal petitions commission. It has also been mentioned that under Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, the decision of the Seimas, the Government Chancellor and the municipal council to refuse to grant the complaint shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal.

3. Under Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, the decision of the Seimas or the municipal council to refuse to grant the complaint on the decisions of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition or to refuse to accept the petition for consideration shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal. Such legal regulation also means that such decisions of the Seimas or municipal councils may not be appealed to court even in the cases, when these decisions, in the opinion of the petitioner, are not grounded on the bases established in the Law on Petitions or other laws or they are grounded on such bases that are not established in the Law on Petitions or other laws.

Therefore, the implementation of the constitutional rights of a person to appeal to court concerning the protection of his violated constitutional rights or freedoms and the constitutional right of the citizens to lodge a complaint about the decisions of the state institutions is restricted. Alongside, the implementation of the constitutional right of petition of the citizen is also restricted.

4. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be drawn that the provision “the decision to refuse to grant the complaint shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal” of Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions to the extent that it consolidates that a person who thinks that the decision of the Seimas, and the municipal council to refuse to grant the complaint on the decisions of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition or to refuse to accept the petition for consideration is not grounded on the bases established in the Law on Petitions or other laws, or is grounded on the bases that are not established in the Law on Petitions or other laws may not appeal to court, is in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution.

5. According to Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions, the decision of the Government Petitions Commission not to recognise the application as a petition, as well as to refuse to accept a petition for consideration, may be appealed to the Government Chancellor, and according to Paragraph 4 of this article, the decision of the Government Chancellor shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal

According to Paragraph 4 of Article 6 of the Law on Petitions, the Petitions Commission of the Government shall be set up by the Government, and according to Paragraph 1 of this article, the said commission shall be responsible and accountable to the Government. It should be noted that the purpose of the submission of application to the Government is that the decision on granting or not granting the demands (proposals) put forward in the application could be made exactly by the Government, after she has learned about the demands (proposals) put forward by the citizens.

According to Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Constitution, the Government shall resolve the affairs of state governance at its sittings by adopting resolutions. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be emphasised that from Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Constitution, construed in the context of various constitutional provisions, entrenching the constitutional status of the Government, as well as of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, stems the fact that the decisions of the Government Petitions Commission, set up by the Government and responsible and accountable to the Government, may not be amended or annulled by any official of the Office of the Government; they may only be amended or annulled by the Government itself (as well as courts and other jurisdictional institutions under their competence).

After one has established in Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions that the Government Chancellor has the powers to make a decision in the course of consideration of the complaints on the decisions of the Government Petitions Commission not to recognise the application as a petition as well as on its decisions to refuse to accept a petition for consideration, the powers of the Government itself, which arise from the Constitution, are interfered with. Thus, Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law are violated.

6. Taking account of the arguments set forth, the conclusion should be made that Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Law on Petitions is in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

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 Item 2 of Paragraph 1 of Article 10 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions is in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

2. To recognise that the provision “the decision to refuse to grant the complaint shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal” of Paragraph 4 of Article 10 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions, to the extent that it consolidates that a person who thinks that a decision of the Seimas and the municipal council to refuse to grant the complaint on the decisions of the petitions commission not to recognise the application as a petition or to refuse to accept the petition for consideration is not grounded on the bases established in the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions or other laws, or is grounded on the bases that are not established in the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions or other laws may not appeal to court, is in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 30 and Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

3. To recognise that Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Petitions is not in conflict with 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