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On returning a petition

 

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

DECISION

ON THE PETITION OF THE VILNIUS DISTRICT LOCAL COURT, THE PETITIONER, REQUESTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO WHETHER CERTAIN PROVISIONS OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA (NO. 259) “ON CATEGORISING FORESTS AS BELONGING TO CERTAIN GROUPS OF FORESTS” OF 20 FEBRUARY 2002 ARE NOT IN CONFLICT WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA AND WITH PARAGRAPHS 1, 2, 4 AND 5 OF ARTICLE 6 AND PARAGRAPH 1 OF ARTICLE 18 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON THE RESTORATION OF THE RIGHTS OF OWNERSHIP OF CITIZENS TO THE EXISTING REAL PROPERTY (WORDING OF 9 JULY 1997)

 

17 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

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, at its procedural sitting, has considered the 30 August 2005 petition of the Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 to the extent that, according to the petitioner, it assigns squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district to forests of state importance, is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997).

The Constitutional Court

has established:

The Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, considered a civil case. By its ruling of 30 August 2005, the said court suspended the consideration of the case and applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting an investigation into whether the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests“ of 20 February 2002 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2002, No. 20-765) (hereinafter also referred to as the Resolution) to the extent that, according to the petitioner, it assigns squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district to the forests of state importance, is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997). The petition of the petitioner was received at the Constitutional Court on 29 November 2005.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

1. On 20 February 2002, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests”. By this government resolution, the list of the forests of the Vilnius district to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests was confirmed. Under this list, the parts of squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district were assigned to the subgroup “Forest parks“ of forest group II (Special-purpose forests: B. Forests for recreation).

2. On 21 October 2002 the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1651) “On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests”. By Item 1 of this resolution, the lists of forests of the districts of Akmenė, Alytus, Anykščiai, Ignalina, Joniškis, Jurbarkas, Kelmė, Klaipėda, Kretinga, Lazdijai, Mažeikiai, Molėtai, Pakruojis, Plungė, Radviliškis, Skuodas, Šakiai, Šalčininkai, Šiauliai, Šilalė, Šilutė, Širvintai, Švenčionys, Tauragė, Telšiai, Trakai, Ukmergė, Utena, Varėna, Vilkaviškis and Zarasai, of the municipalities of Druskininkai, Elektrėnai, Kalvarija, Kazlų Rūda, Marijampolė, Neringa, Pagėgiai and Rietavas, and of the towns of Alytus, Klaipėda, Palanga, Šiauliai and Visaginas to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests were confirmed.

3. On 30 December 2004, the Government adopted the Resolution (No. 1681) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1651) ‘On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 21 October 2002 and Recognising the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 259) ‘On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 20 February 2002 as no Longer Valid”.

By Subitem No. 1681.1.1 of the said government resolution of 30 December 2004 Item 1 of the Government Resolution (No. 1651) “On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 21 October 2002 was amended as follows: after the word “Vilkaviškis” the word “Vilnius” was entered, and before the word “Visaginas”—the word “Vilnius”.

Thus, Item 1 (wording of 30 December 2004) of the Government Resolution (No. 1651) “On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 21 October 2002 was set forth as follows: “To confirm the lists of the forests of the districts of Akmenė, Alytus, Anykščiai, Ignalina, Joniškis, Jurbarkas, Kelmė, Klaipėda, Kretinga, Lazdijai, Mažeikiai, Molėtai, Pakruojis, Plungė, Radviliškis, Skuodas, Šakiai, Šalčininkai, Šiauliai, Šilalė, Šilutė, Širvintai, Švenčionys, Tauragė, Telšiai, Trakai, Ukmergė, Utena, Varėna, Vilkaviškis, Vilnius and Zarasai, of the municipalities of Druskininkai, Elektrėnai, Kalvarija, Kazlų Rūda, Marijampolė, Neringa, Pagėgiai and Rietavas, and of the towns of Alytus, Klaipėda, Palanga, Šiauliai, Vilnius and Visaginas to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests (attached).”

By Subitem 1.2 of the Government Resolution (No. 1681) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1651) ‘On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 21 October 2002 and Recognising the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 259) ‘On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 20 February 2002 as no Longer Valid” the lists of forests to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests confirmed in the Government Resolution (No. 1651) “On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 21 October 2002 were supplemented by lists of forests of the Vilnius district and Vilnius city to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests.

By Item 2 of the Government Resolution (No. 1681) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1651) ‘On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 21 October 2002 and Recognising the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 259) ‘On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests’ of 20 February 2002 as no Longer Valid” of 20 February 2002 was recognised as no longer valid.

In the lists of forests to be categorised as belonging to certain groups of forests confirmed by Item 1 (wording of 30 December 2004) of the Government Resolution (No. 1651) “On Categorising the Forests of Alytus, Klaipėda, Marijampolė, Šiauliai, Tauragė, Telšiai, Utena and Vilnius as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 21 October 2002, squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district remained assigned to the subgroup “Forest parks” of forest group II (Special-purpose forests: B. Forests for recreation).

4. The Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, had doubts on whether the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 to the extent that, according to the petitioner, “squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district were categorised as special-purpose forests” is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997).

It should be noted that at the time when Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, adopted the ruling by which it was applied to the Constitutional Court with the petition requesting to investigate whether the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 to the extent that, according to the petitioner, “squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district were categorised as special-purpose forests” is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997), impugned the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 was no longer valid.

5. The Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, in its ruling by which it applies to the Constitutional Court, grounds its doubts on the non-compliance of the provisions (to the extent, specified by the petitioner) of the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 with Article 23 of the Constitution and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997) on, inter alia, various circumstances of its investigated civil case, as well as such that are not yet legal facts established by the said court but just assumptions.

6. The Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, in its ruling by which it applies to the Constitutional Court requesting an investigation into whether the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 to the extent that, according to the petitioner, “squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district were categorised as special-purpose forests” is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997), did not provide with legal arguments of the opinion of the court on the non-compliance of the provisions (to the extent, specified by the petitioner) of the Government Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests“ of 20 February 2002 with Article 23 of the Constitution, i.e. it did not specify how the above-mentioned government resolution of 20 February 2002 (to the extent, specified by the petitioner) is specifically in conflict with namely Article 23 of the Constitution—the provision “property shall be inviolable” of its Paragraph 1, the provision “the rights of ownership shall be protected by law” of its Paragraph 2 and the provision “property may only be seized for the needs of society in accordance with the procedure established by law and shall be justly compensated for” of its Paragraph 3.

Neither did the petitioner present any legal arguments on how specifically the Resolution (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” (to the extent, specified by the petitioner) is in conflict with articles of the Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997) and paragraphs thereto, specified by the petitioner:

namely with Paragraph 1 of Article 6, under which ownership rights shall be restored to the forest or water body previously held by the owner, the total area whereof did not exceed 150 hectares, including the land situated in a rural area;

namely with Paragraph 2 of Article 6, under which a forest or water body shall be returned in kind in its former locality to a citizen or citizens by the right of common ownership, except the forest and water bodies which are categorised as the ones subject to purchasing by the state pursuant to Article 13 of this law, as well as the areas of the former forests and water bodies which, in the cases provided for in Paragraph 7 of this article, citizens do not desire to get back in the former locality;

namely with Paragraph 4 of Article 6, under which the state shall compensate, according to Article 16 of this Law, the citizens for the forest and water bodies categorised, pursuant to Article 13 of this law, as the ones subject to purchasing by the state, as well as for the areas of the former forest and water bodies which, in the case provided for in Paragraph 3 of this article, they do not desire to get back in former locality;

namely in Paragraph 5 of Article 6, under which the rights of ownership of citizens to forests and water bodies shall be restored in accordance with the land survey plans of land reform drawn up in the manner prescribed by the Government;

namely by Paragraph 1 of Article 18, under which the institutions, specified in Article 17 of this law must consider the applications of citizens and adopt decisions concerning the restoration of ownership rights within 6 months following the day that the documents confirming the right of ownership and relation by blood or connection by marriage are submitted, and other documents, specified in this law, are prepared.

7. Under Item 5 of Paragraph 2 of Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, in the ruling of the court, by which the court shall apply to the Constitutional Court with a petition to decide whether the said law or other legal act is in compliance with the Constitution, the legal arguments presenting the opinion of the court on the conflict of a law or other legal act with the Constitution must be indicated.

8. In its ruling of 12 December 2005, the Constitutional Court held that the requirement to specify the legal arguments presenting the opinion of the court on the conflict of a law or other legal act with the Constitution arising from Item 5 of Paragraph 2 of Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, means that the courts that apply to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting an investigation into whether a law or another legal act (part thereof) is not in conflict with the Constitution, while arguing their opinion presented in the petition that the law or other legal act (part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution, may not confine themselves to general reasoning or statements that the law or other legal act (part thereof), in their opinion, is in conflict with the Constitution, but must clearly indicate which impugned articles (paragraphs, items thereof) and to what extent, in their opinion, are in conflict with the Constitution, and to reason their position on the compliance of every impugned provision of the legal act (part thereof) with the Constitution with clearly formulated legal arguments.

9. Taking account of the arguments set forth, it should be held that the petition of the Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, to the Constitutional Court fails to comply with the requirements of Item 5 of Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the Law on the Constitutional Court.

10. Under Article 70 of the Law on the Constitutional Court in the case that a petition fail to comply with the requirements set forth in Article 67 of this Law, it shall be returned to the petitioner. The return of a petition shall not take away the right to apply to the Constitutional Court according to the common procedure after the removal of the deficiencies thereof.

Conforming to Paragraph 3 of Article 22, Paragraph 2 of Article 25, Articles 28, 67 and 70 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania and Chapter VI of the Rules of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

decision:

To return the Vilnius District Local Court, the petitioner, the petition requesting an investigation into whether the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 259) “On Categorising Forests as Belonging to Certain Groups of Forests” of 20 February 2002 to the extent that, according to the petitioner, it assigns squares 7 and 89 of forests of the Verkiai forestry of the Vilnius forest district to the forests of state importance is not in conflict with Article 23 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and with Paragraphs 1, 2, 4 and 5 of Article 6 and Paragraph 1 of Article 18 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property (wording of 9 July 1997).

Justices of the Constitutional Court:         Armanas Abramavičius

                                                                              Toma Birmontienė

                                                                              Egidijus Kūris

                                                                              Kęstutis Lapinskas

                                                                              Zenonas Namavičius

                                                                              Ramutė Ruškytė

                                                                              Vytautas Sinkevičius

                                                                              Stasys Stačiokas

                                                                              Romualdas Kęstutis Urbaitis