Lt

On the concept of impeachment proceedings that is entrenched in the Statute of the Seimas

Case no 4/2016

THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA
IN THE NAME OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF ARTICLE 227 (WORDING OF 9 NOVEMBER 2004) OF THE STATUTE OF THE SEIMAS OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

24  February 2017, no  KT3-N2/2017
Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Danutė Jočienė, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Vytas Milius, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Dainius Žalimas

The court reporter – Daiva Pitrėnaitė

Julius Sabatauskas, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, acting as the representative of the Seimas of the Republic of the 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, at the Court’s hearing on 7 February 2017, under oral procedure considered the constitutional justice case (no 4/2016) subsequent to the petition (no 1B-3/2016) of a group of members of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, insofar as, according to the petitioner, under the impugned article, the possibility of applying impeachment as a means of constitutional liability is linked to committing actions contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania while holding the positions specified in Article 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

The arguments of the petitioner

1. Substantiating its doubts regarding the constitutionality of the impugned legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, the petitioner indicates that, under this legal regulation, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to committing actions contrary to the Constitution while holding the positions specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, although, under Article 74 of the Constitution, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to the fact of being found to have committed a crime, i.e. these grounds for impeachment are not dependent on the time of committing a crime, whether or not while holding a position specified in this article.

The petitioner notes in this context that, under Article 31 of the Constitution, a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the procedure established by law and declared guilty by an effective court judgment. Thus, whether a particular crime has been committed becomes apparent only after the Seimas receives the effective judgment of conviction. Accordingly, it is precisely at this time when the subjects who appoint (elect) persons for positions referred to in Article 74 of the Constitution become aware that the appointed (elected) officials have committed a crime. If this information had been known prior to the appointment (election) of the person concerned to a position referred to in Article 74, the subject appointing (electing) that person would have been able to assess this. Meanwhile, under the Constitution, the fact that suspicions or charges have been raised is insufficient for reaching the conclusion that a crime has been committed unless the raised suspicions or charges have been confirmed by the effective court judgment. Thus, based on the systemic interpretation of the provisions of Articles 31 and 74 of the Constitution, the conclusion should be drawn that the grounds for applying impeachment proceedings to remove persons referred to in Article 74 of the Constitution from their respective office arise only after the court judgment by which the person concerned is found guilty of a crime comes into effect.

Since, under Article 74 of the Constitution, in order to apply impeachment, only the fact of being found to have committed a crime is important, not when a crime was committed, whether or not in the course of holding a position referred to in this article, the legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, according to the petitioner, has unduly altered and reduced the possibility of applying impeachment as provided for in Article 74 of the Constitution.

II

The arguments of the representative of the party concerned

2. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court hearing, written explanations were received from Julius Sabatauskas, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned. It is maintained in the explanations that the impugned legal regulation is not in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution. The position of the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned, is substantiated by the following arguments.

2.1. Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is not in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution; rather it details the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution that consolidate the duty for the legislator of the Statute of the Seimas itself to establish the procedure for impeachment proceedings. The legal terms used to describe the same phenomena in the Constitution and lower-ranking legal acts may not coincide, but this does not necessarily mean that a law or another legal act is in contradiction with the Constitution. The linguistic method of interpreting law should not be made absolute in interpreting the provisions of the Constitution.

2.2. According to the legal regulation laid down in the Statute of the Seimas, impeachment proceedings, even in cases where impeachment is applied for a crime having been committed, are linked to the receipt of a conclusion of the Constitutional Court. In its decision of 10 May 2016, the Constitutional Court held that the assessment of a crime committed before taking an oath of office does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court. Therefore, in the opinion of the representative of the party concerned, in the absence of a conclusion by the Constitutional Court, impeachment proceedings at the Seimas are, in principle, precluded. If the foregoing is interpreted otherwise, once Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is found in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution, the issue regarding the constitutionality of the whole legal regulation of impeachment proceedings (Chapter XXXIX (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas) should also be raised.

2.3. The extensive interpretation of the impeachment grounds of being “found to have committed a crime” in connection not only with a crime committed while holding office, but also with a crime committed before taking up office, may distort the essence of constitutional liability. Since the Constitutional Court does not give any conclusion in cases where a crime is committed before taking up office, while the Seimas has no competence to assess the constitutionality of a specific crime and its qualification and/or the lawfulness and reasonableness of the imposition of a sentence, it is unclear how it should assess a crime committed by a member of the Seimas before taking up office.

2.4. Under Paragraph 2 of Article 56 of the Constitution, persons who have not served the punishment imposed by a court judgment may not stand for election as a member of the Seimas. However, if a person sentenced by a court for having committed a crime has served the punishment imposed by a court judgment, he/she may stand for election as a member of the Seimas (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 25 May 2004). A judgment of conviction may impose not only the fixed-term deprivation of liberty, but also another type of punishment as, for instance, a fine. In that case, once the fine has been paid, the person is considered to have served the imposed punishment. Since, after serving his/her punishment, a person may stand for election as a member of the Seimas, he/she should also have the right to complete his/her unfinished term of office. A different interpretation would disregard the principle of the equality of rights.

Furthermore, it would be wrong to disregard the will of the Nation: if the voters, even after being informed about the suspicions raised against a candidate, have elected the candidate to the Seimas, it is debatable that the Seimas would have the powers to infringe on the will of the voters once a judgment of conviction against the said candidate for having committed a criminal act comes into effect following the election.

III

The material received in the case

3. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written opinions were received from Prof. Dr. Vytautas Sinkevičius of the Institute of Public Law of the Faculty of Law of Mykolas Romeris University and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vaidotas A. Vaičaitis of the Department of Public Law of the Faculty of Law of Vilnius University.

IV

The explanations provided by the representative of the party concerned at the hearing

4. At the Constitutional Court’s hearing, Julius Sabatauskas, Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs of the Seimas, acting as the representative of the Seimas, the party concerned, basically reiterated the arguments set out in his written explanations, provided additional explanations, and answered the questions asked by the justices of the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

The scope of investigation

5. The group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, requests an investigation into the compliance of Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas with Article 74 of the Constitution, insofar as, according to the petitioner, under the impugned article, the possibility of applying impeachment as a means of constitutional liability is linked to committing unconstitutional actions while holding the positions specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

5.1. Article 227 “The Concept of Impeachment Proceedings” (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas prescribes: “Impeachment proceedings shall be the parliamentary procedure applied by the Seimas to the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution for their actions in conflict with the Constitution, carried out during the tenure of office, in order to solve the issue of the constitutional liability of such persons.”

5.2. Article 74 of the Constitution prescribes: “The President of the Republic, the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, as well as any Members of the Seimas, who grossly violate the Constitution or breach their oath, or are found to have committed a crime, may be removed from office or have the mandate of a Member of the Seimas revoked by a 3/5 majority vote of all the Members of the Seimas. This shall be performed according to the procedure for impeachment proceedings, which shall be established by the Statute of the Seimas.”

5.3. The group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, substantiates its doubts regarding the constitutionality of the impugned legal regulation by the fact that, according to the group of members of the Seimas, in defining the concept of impeachment proceedings, Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas has unduly reduced the possibility of applying impeachment as provided for in Article 74 of the Constitution: under the legal regulation laid down in the impugned provision of the Statute of the Seimas, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to committing unconstitutional actions while holding the positions specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, although, under Article 74 of the Constitution, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to the fact of being found to have committed a crime, i.e. under the Constitution, impeachment can be applied on these grounds irrespective of when a crime was committed, whether while holding a position specified in this article or not.

Thus, the constitutionality of the impugned legal regulation laid down in the Statute of the Seimas in relation to impeachment proceedings is doubted by the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, exclusively to the extent that this legal regulation governs the application of impeachment on one of its constitutional grounds, i.e. on the grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, and to the extent that, under the impugned legal regulation, impeachment on the said grounds, according to the petitioner, may be applied solely for such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

6. Consequently, in this constitutional justice case, subsequent to the petition of the group of members of the Seimas, the Constitutional Court will investigate whether Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution, insofar as, according to the petitioner, it provides that impeachment may be applied on the grounds of being found to have committed only such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

II

The impugned and related legal regulation

7. As mentioned before, subsequent to the petition of the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, the Constitutional Court is investigating to the specified extent whether Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is in compliance with Article 74 of the Constitution.

8. On 17 February 1994, the Seimas adopted the Statute of the Seimas. This Statute of the Seimas was amended and set out in its new wording by the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on Amending the Statute, which was adopted by the Seimas on 22 December 1998.

The provisions of the Statute of the Seimas (wording of 22 December 1998) were amended and/or supplemented on more than one occasion, inter alia, by the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania of 9 November 2004 on Amending and Supplementing Articles 4, 9, 10, 12, 15, 44, 46, 49, 61, 68, 78, 113, 135, 136, 137, 138, 145, 149, 151, 152, 155, 156, 162, 163, and 164, Chapter XXXVIII, and Chapter XXXIX of the Statute of the Seimas, Supplementing the Statute with Article 441 and Chapter XXVII-1, as well as Declaring Chapter XL as No Longer Valid.

The Statute of the Seimas provided for the procedure of impeachment proceedings.

8.1. As mentioned before, the impugned Article 227 “The Concept of Impeachment Proceedings” (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas prescribes: “Impeachment proceedings shall be the parliamentary procedure applied by the Seimas to the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution for their actions in conflict with the Constitution, carried out during the tenure of office, in order to solve the issue of the constitutional liability of such persons.”

It should be mentioned in this context that, under Article 74 of the Constitution, impeachment may be applied to the President of the Republic, the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, as well as the members of the Seimas.

Thus, the legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, which is impugned in this constitutional justice case, highlights the following aspects in the definition of the concept of impeachment proceedings:

impeachment is a parliamentary procedure, applied by the Seimas;

impeachment may be applied to the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution: the President of the Republic, the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, as well as the members of the Seimas;

the grounds for applying impeachment include only those actions of the above-mentioned persons that meet the following criteria: actions are in conflict with the Constitution and were carried out during the tenure of office specified in Article 74 of the Constitution;

the objective of impeachment proceedings is to decide the question of the constitutional liability of the said persons.

8.2. The provisions of Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas should be interpreted in the context of other provisions consolidating, inter alia, the procedure for impeachment proceedings in the Statute of the Seimas.

8.2.1. Article 228 “Grounds for Instituting Impeachment Proceedings” (wording of 9 November 2004 as amended on 13 October 2011) of the Statute of the Seimas prescribes:

1. The right to submit to the Seimas a motion to institute impeachment proceedings against a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution shall be vested in a group of Members of the Seimas consisting of at least one-fourth of the Members of the Seimas and, in the case referred to in Paragraph 3 of Article 78 of this Statute, in the Commission for Ethics and Procedures.

2. A motion to institute impeachment proceedings may be submitted under at least one of the following grounds:

1) a person has grossly violated the Constitution;

2) a person has breached an oath;

3) a person is suspected of having committed a crime.

3. Having established that a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is suspected of having committed a crime, the Prosecutor General shall immediately inform the Seimas.

4. In the case that the President of the Republic is suspected of having committed a crime, the Seimas shall set up a special investigation commission in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 232 of this Statute.

5. Having heard the report of the Prosecutor General regarding other persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, the Seimas shall decide whether to give its approval to prosecute the specific person, or to set up a special investigation commission in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 232 of this Statute, if there is a motion submitted by the entity referred to in Paragraph 1 of this Article.

6. Upon the receipt by the Seimas of a copy of the effective court judgment of acquittal or the decision to dismiss the case, the Speaker of the Seimas or a Deputy Speaker shall immediately familiarise the Members of the Seimas with the judgment or decision. Having been familiarised with the judgment of acquittal or the decision to dismiss the case, the Seimas shall, at the next sitting, adopt a resolution to terminate impeachment proceedings.

7. Upon the receipt by the Seimas of a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction, the Speaker of the Seimas or a Deputy Speaker shall immediately familiarise the Members of the Seimas with the judgment. Having familiarised the Members of the Seimas with the court judgment of conviction, the Seimas shall carry out impeachment proceedings in accordance with the procedure established in Articles 239–242 of this Statute.”

It should be mentioned in the context of the constitutional justice case at issue that, under Paragraph 1 (wording of 3 July) of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas, upon hearing the report of the Prosecutor General, the Seimas shall adopt one of the following two decisions: to form an investigation commission for deciding whether the Seimas should give its consent to hold the member of the Seimas concerned criminally liable, detain him/her, or restrict his/her liberty otherwise; or to start preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings (in the event that there is the motion submitted by the authorised subjects). Under Paragraph 4 (wording of 3 July 2008) of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas, if the Seimas has adopted a resolution regarding its consent to hold a member of the Seimas criminally liable, detain him/her, or restrict his/her liberty otherwise, preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings and impeachment procedure may be instituted against the member of the Seimas concerned only upon resolving the question of criminal liability, i.e. provided that the judgment of acquittal has been adopted or the judgment of conviction has become effective, or the criminal proceedings have been terminated. These provisions also apply with regard to the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, and the President and judges of the Court of Appeal (Item 1 of Paragraph 2 of Article 210 (wording of 3 July 2008) of the Statute of the Seimas).

It also needs to be mentioned that a special investigation commission set up by the Seimas investigates the reasonableness of the submitted motions to institute impeachment proceedings and prepares a conclusion concerning the grounds for instituting impeachment proceedings (Paragraph 2 of Article 231 (wording of 13 October 2011) of the Statute of the Seimas).

8.2.2. Thus, the above-indicated legal regulation provides, among other things, for the procedure whereby preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings may be initiated with regard to a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution in cases where such a person is suspected of having committed a crime.

The indicated legal regulation implies, among other things, the following relevant particularities, inter alia, related to preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings, in cases where a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is suspected of having committed a crime:

a necessary precondition for initiating preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings where a person is suspected of having committed a crime is a respective report; the Seimas may be informed about the fact that a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is suspected of having committed a crime exclusively by the Prosecutor General;

upon hearing a report of the Prosecutor General that a person is suspected of having committed a crime, the Seimas adopts one of the following two decisions (except in the case where the President of the Republic is suspected of having committed a crime): the decision to give its consent to hold the specific person criminally liable or the decision to set up a special investigation commission (only in the event that there is the motion of the authorised subjects to institute impeachment proceedings); in the case where the President of the Republic is suspected of having committed a crime, the Seimas sets up a special investigation commission;

impeachment proceedings in the Seimas may be conducted against a particular person only after it has been found that the person concerned has committed a crime, i.e. after, according to the determined procedure, such circumstances are established that create the preconditions for applying impeachment for a crime having been committed; depending on which of the two above-mentioned decisions the Seimas adopts, the said circumstances are established either by a special investigation commission set up by the Seimas or by the legal authorities dealing with the issue of the criminal liability of the person concerned.

In this context, interpreting Paragraphs 5 and 7 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas in conjunction with Paragraph 4 (wording of 3 July 2008) of Article 23 of the Statute of the Seimas, it should be noted that, upon the consent of the Seimas to hold a person referred to in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, preparatory actions for impeachment proceedings with regard to that person may not be carried out and impeachment proceedings against that person may not be started until the question of his/her criminal liability has been solved.

8.2.3. The provisions of Paragraphs 5, 6, and 7 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas should also be interpreted in the context of the provisions of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas.

8.2.3.1. Article 239 “Instituting Impeachment Proceedings in the Seimas” (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas prescribes:

1. Having, by a majority of votes cast by the Members of the Seimas who attend the sitting, approved the conclusion of a special investigation commission that there are grounds to institute impeachment proceedings, the Seimas shall adopt a resolution to institute impeachment proceedings against a specific person in the Seimas and shall refer to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion whether the specific actions of the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted are in conflict with the Constitution.

2. Upon the receipt by the Seimas of a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction, it shall adopt a resolution to institute impeachment proceedings against the specific person and shall refer to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion whether, by having committed the specific crime, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath.”

Thus, under this legal regulation:

impeachment proceedings against a specific person are instituted in the Seimas only upon the adoption by the Seimas of a respective resolution after the Seimas receives a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction or approves the conclusion of a special investigation commission that there are grounds to institute impeachment proceedings;

after adopting a resolution to institute impeachment proceedings against a specific person, the Seimas refers to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion.

8.2.3.2. Interpreting Paragraphs 6 and 7 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas in conjunction with Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case, it should be noted that impeachment proceedings are in all cases instituted only by a resolution of the Seimas to institute impeachment proceedings against a particular person in the Seimas; if the Seimas gives its consent to hold a person criminally liable, the said resolution of the Seimas is adopted only after the Seimas receives a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction, i.e. only after it has been found that a particular person, referred to in Article 74 of the Constitution, has committed a crime; thus, after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a person criminally liable, impeachment proceedings are not instituted.

It should be noted in this context that the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 6 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is unclear, since it can be understood in different ways, among other things, as also meaning that the consent of the Seimas to hold a person criminally liable also constitutes the beginning of impeachment proceedings against that person.

8.2.3.3. Interpreting the provisions of Paragraph 7 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas in the context of Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, it should be noted that, after adopting a resolution to institute impeachment proceedings in the Seimas against a particular person, the Seimas must in all cases refer to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion: inter alia, a conclusion whether, by having committed a specific crime, a person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted following the receipt by the Seimas of a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath; Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas does not expressis verbis link this duty of the Seimas to the time when a crime – leading to impeachment once it transpires – was committed, whether before taking up office or while holding it.

8.2.4. In the context of this constitutional justice case, mention should also be made of the following provisions of Paragraphs 1 and 8 of Article 240 “Impeachment Proceedings in the Seimas after the Conclusion of the Constitutional Court Becomes Effective” (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas:

1. Impeachment proceedings in the Seimas shall continue only upon coming into effect of the conclusion of the Constitutional Court whether the specific actions of the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted are in conflict with the Constitution. [...]

8. At the hearing indicated in Paragraph 6 of this Article, the Seimas shall adopt a decision to deliberate on the removal from office of the person subject to impeachment or the deprivation of his/her mandate of a Member of the Seimas if:

1) in the effective conclusion of the Constitutional Court on whether the specific actions of the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted are in conflict with the Constitution, it is stated that, by having committed at least one of his/her specific actions, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath;

2) in the effective conclusion of the Constitutional Court on whether, by having committed a specific crime, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath, it is stated that, by having committed the specific crime, the said person grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath;

3) in the effective conclusion of the Constitutional Court on whether, by having committed a specific crime, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath, it is stated that, by having committed the specific crime, the said person did not grossly violate the Constitution and breach his/her oath.”

Thus, under the above-indicated legal regulation, the Seimas adopts a decision to deliberate at a sitting of the Seimas on the removal from office of a person subject to impeachment or the deprivation of his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas in the case where, in the effective conclusion of the Constitutional Court on whether, by having committed a specific crime, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath, it is stated that, by having committed the specific crime, the said person grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath, as well as in the case where, in the effective conclusion of the Constitutional Court it is stated that, by having committed the specific crime, the said person did not grossly violate the Constitution and breach his/her oath. Thus, in the case where the Constitutional Court holds that, by having committed a specific crime, a person did not grossly violate the Constitution and breach his/her oath, impeachment proceedings against that particular person continue to be conducted solely due to the crime having been committed.

It also needs to be mentioned in this context that, under Article 242 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, after the entry into effect of the conclusion of the Constitutional Court, inter alia, on whether, by having committed a specific crime, a person grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath, the impeachment proceedings in the Seimas continue to be conducted according to the general procedure established in the Statute of the Seimas; a decision regarding the removal of the person concerned from office or the revocation of his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas is made by the Seimas according to the procedure prescribed in the Statute of the Seimas.

8.2.5. Interpreting the impugned legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case, inter alia, in the context of the provisions of Paragraphs 1 and 4 (wording of 3 July 2008) of Article 23, Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004 as amended on 13 October 2011), and Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, it should be noted that, under this impugned legal regulation, impeachment against the persons indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution – the President of the Republic, the President or justices of the Constitutional Court, the President or justices of the Supreme Court, the President or judges of the Court of Appeal, or the members of the Seimas – may be applied only for such a crime found to have been committed that was committed by the said persons while in office.

It also needs to be mentioned in this context that, when applying impeachment for a crime found to have been committed, after it receives a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction, the Seimas must refer to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion whether, by having committed the specific crime, the person against whom impeachment proceedings have been instituted grossly violated the Constitution and breached his/her oath; Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas does not expressis verbis link this duty of the Seimas to the time when a crime – leading to impeachment once it transpires – was committed, whether before taking up office or while holding it.

III

The provisions of the Constitution and the official constitutional doctrine

9. In this constitutional justice case, the petitioner impugns the compliance of Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas with Article 74 of the Constitution, insofar as, according to the petitioner, the possibility of applying impeachment as a means of constitutional liability is linked to committing unconstitutional acts while holding the positions specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

10. As mentioned before, Article 74 of the Constitution prescribes: “The President of the Republic, the President and justices of the Constitutional Court, the President and justices of the Supreme Court, the President and judges of the Court of Appeal, as well as any Members of the Seimas, who grossly violate the Constitution or breach their oath, or are found to have committed a crime, may be removed from office or have the mandate of a Member of the Seimas revoked by a 3/5 majority vote of all the Members of the Seimas. This shall be performed according to the procedure for impeachment proceedings, which shall be established by the Statute of the Seimas.”

In its conclusion of 31 March 2004, the Constitutional Court noted that impeachment is a special procedure provided for in the Constitution, which is applied when the issue concerning the constitutional liability of the highest state officials indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution is decided. Under Article 74 of the Constitution, the persons specified therein may be removed from office (or their mandate of a member of the Seimas may be revoked) through impeachment proceedings for the actions indicated in the Constitution: a gross violation of the Constitution, a breach of the oath, or a committed crime (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004).

In the context of this constitutional justice case, it should be noted that the fact of being “found to have committed a crime” constitutes independent grounds for impeachment under Article 74 of the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s decision of 10 May 2016).

10.1. Under Article 74 of the Constitution, constitutional liability can be applied to the highest state officials specified in this article on the constitutional grounds relevant to this constitutional justice case for a crime having been committed.

10.1.1. Interpreting the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case and revealing when the particular actions committed by the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution may give rise to the preconditions for applying impeachment on the above-mentioned grounds, consideration should be given to the purpose of the constitutional institution of impeachment.

In this context, the following provisions of the official constitutional doctrine should be mentioned:

state officials must have the confidence of the citizens – the national community (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 25 May 2004 and 13 May 2010 and its conclusion of 3 June 2014);

in order that the citizens – the national community – could reasonably trust state officials so that it would be possible to ascertain that all state institutions and all state officials follow the Constitution and law and obey them, and that those who do not obey the Constitution and law would not hold the office for which the confidence of the citizens – the national community – is needed, it is necessary to ensure public democratic control over the activity of state officials and their accountability to society (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 25 May 2004 and 13 May 2010 and its conclusion of 3 June 2014), comprising, inter alia, the possibility of removing from office, among others, those state officials who violate the Constitution and law and bring discredit on state authority by their actions (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 25 May 2004);

one of the forms of this public democratic control is the constitutional institution of impeachment (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 25 May 2004 and its conclusion of 27 October 2010);

impeachment is one of the instruments of the self-protection of civil society; providing for a special procedure for dismissing the highest officials from office or for revoking their mandate ensures public democratic control over the activities of these officials; at the same time, such officials are granted additional guarantees so that they would perform their duties in accordance with law (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999);

the objective of impeachment proceedings is to decide the question of the constitutional liability of the persons listed in Article 74 of the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999).

Thus, the constitutional purpose of impeachment as one of the instruments of the self-protection of civil society is public democratic control over the activity of the highest state officials, which creates the preconditions for imposing constitutional liability on them: removing from office those officials or revoking the mandate of those members of the Seimas who bring discredit on state authority by their actions and, due to this, lose the confidence of the citizens.

10.1.2. It should be noted that impeachment is not the application of criminal liability even if it is applied on the grounds of a crime; when voting on impeachment takes place at the Seimas, the question of the constitutional liability rather than criminal liability of the person is decided (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999).

10.1.2.1. As noted by the Constitutional Court in its ruling of 11 May 1999, the application of a constitutional sanction may not be dissociated from the establishment of the fact of a violation; the same unlawful actions may sometimes give rise to both constitutional liability and another type of legal liability as, for example, criminal liability; the fact whether, in addition to constitutional liability, such actions also give rise to another type of legal liability, depends on whether the legal system recognises that the same unlawful actions may violate not only constitutional, but also other legal relations; on the other hand, a constitutional sanction is applied primarily because of the fact that the person discredited state authority by having committed a violation; therefore, he/she must be removed from office or his/her mandate must be revoked; otherwise, public confidence in state authority, its institutions, and officials will not be guaranteed; the Parliament decides on the application of a constitutional sanction.

10.1.2.2. Revealing which actions give the grounds for applying impeachment from the aspect relevant to this constitutional justice case, among other things, it should be noted that the concept “crime” used in the wording “found to have committed a crime” of Article 74 of the Constitution is not expressis verbis linked in the Constitution to any specific actions incompatible with law.

It should be noted in this context that, although crimes are the violations of law that, inter alia, particularly grossly violate human rights and freedoms (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 8 May 2000, 29 December 2004, and 8 June 2009), crimes provided for in the criminal law, among other things, can vary in their nature and consequences. The Constitutional Court has held that crimes provided for in the criminal law may be not only grave, but also minor ones; they may be committed not only intentionally, but also due to negligence; they may be more dangerous or less dangerous; they may cause especially severe consequences or consequences not that severe; they may be committed due to selfish or unselfish intentions; they may be related or not related to the performed duties (service), etc. (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 25 May 2004).

10.1.2.3. Thus, under Article 74 of the Constitution, impeachment can be applied for various crimes found to have been committed. However, this in itself does not mean that, when found to have committed a crime, persons should be removed from office (or have their mandates of a member of the Seimas revoked) in all cases for having committed any type of a crime: a decision on the application of impeachment on the indicated grounds and the ensuing removal of the person from office (the revocation of his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas) on the indicated grounds may be taken exclusively by the institution vested with relevant powers in the impeachment process, i.e. by the Seimas (inter alia, in the cases provided for in the Constitution and upon receiving a relevant conclusion of the Constitutional Court) in the course of impeachment proceedings by a 3/5 majority vote of all the members of the Seimas.

10.1.3. It should be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that the impeachment grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, as specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, are not linked to the time when a crime was committed; specifically, it is only the fact of having committed a crime that must be found while a person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution is in office.

The special status, including the powers, of officials (highest state officials) whose constitutional liability is decided in impeachment proceedings implies that the preconditions for discrediting state authority can be created not only in cases where the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution are, in the course of holding their respective office, found to have committed a crime while in office, but also where state authority is exercised while implementing certain functions by the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution who had committed a crime before taking up office and these circumstances transpire while they are already in office. A different interpretation of the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution would be incompatible with the constitutional purpose of impeachment, since it would provide the preconditions for holding office by those highest state officials who, once it is found that they had committed a crime before taking up office, would bring discredit on state authority and, due to this, would lose the confidence of the citizens.

10.1.4. Thus, as mentioned before, the constitutional purpose of impeachment, is public democratic control over the activity of the highest state officials, which creates the preconditions for imposing constitutional liability on them: removing from office those officials or revoking the mandate of those members of the Seimas who bring discredit on state authority by their actions and, due to this, lose the confidence of the citizens; in view of this, under Article 74 of the Constitution, impeachment may be applied for both a crime committed by a person before taking up a position specified in this article and a crime committed while holding such a position.

It should be noted that the circumstance that the actions creating the preconditions for applying impeachment on the above-mentioned grounds had been committed by a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution before taking up office implies the specific features of the impeachment process itself.

10.2. It needs to be emphasised that the application of a constitutional sanction may not be dissociated from the establishment of the fact of a violation (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999). In its ruling of 25 January 2001, the Constitutional Court held that the wording “found to have committed a crime” of Article 74 of the Constitution presumes that both the fact of a crime and the official having committed it have been established.

10.2.1. In its ruling of 11 May 1999, the Constitutional Court noted that the Seimas, in exercising its discretion to establish a differentiated procedure for impeachment proceedings, is bound by the constitutional concept of impeachment; this concept implies fair legal proceedings, in which priority is given to the protection of the rights of the person; when guaranteeing the protection of the rights of individuals, it is necessary to pay regard to the fundamental principles of a state under the rule of law; such principles require that jurisdictional and other law-applying institutions be impartial and independent, seek to establish the truth, and adopt their decisions only on the grounds of law. Thus, impeachment proceedings in the Seimas are subject to the same requirements as proceedings in jurisdictional institutions, inter alia, the person is granted all procedural guarantees, including the right to participate in the impeachment proceedings and to defend himself/herself.

Therefore, in interpreting the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution, regard should also be paid to Paragraph 1 of Article 31 of the Constitution, under which a person is presumed innocent until proved guilty according to the procedure established by law and declared guilty by an effective court judgment.

Interpreting the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 31 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court has, among other things, held that the presumption of innocence is a fundamental principle of administering justice in criminal proceedings and one of the most important guarantees of human rights and freedoms (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 12 April 2001); the presumption of innocence, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 31 of the Constitution, viewed in the context of other provisions of the Constitution, also has broader content and must not be linked exclusively to criminal legal relations (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 29 December 2004).

It should be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that the requirements implied by the constitutional principle of the presumption of innocence are equally relevant when impeachment, as a form of constitutional liability, is applied, inter alia, when the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it are established.

10.2.2. In this context, mention should be made of the requirements that stem from the Constitution and have been revealed in the official constitutional doctrine in relation to the constitutional powers, among other things, to initiate impeachment proceedings and establish the circumstances important for the application of impeachment – the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it:

under the Constitution, impeachment proceedings take place in the Seimas and no state authority institution is permitted to interfere with the constitutional powers of the Seimas to conduct impeachment if this is not provided for in the Constitution; this implies that impeachment may be initiated only in the Seimas and that the initiative of impeachment may come only from the members of the Seimas; the legal regulation set out in the Statute of the Seimas in relation to the initiation of impeachment may, according to the Constitution, have specific features in cases where a court judgment of conviction has been adopted and has become effective with regard to the person concerned (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004);

once regard is paid to the concept of impeachment consolidated in the Constitution, it is permitted to stipulate in the Statute of the Seimas that, in cases where the fact of a crime having been committed is obvious, the Seimas itself, while conducting impeachment, may state such a fact without an investigation carried out by judicial institutions (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004); the removal of a person from office or the revocation of his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas through impeachment proceedings because of the suspicion that he/she has committed a crime is not binding on a court (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999); in cases where the fact of a crime having been committed is not obvious, the Seimas, under the Constitution, may not conduct impeachment on the grounds of a crime having been committed until the court judgment of conviction has been adopted and has become effective (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004);

a formal statement of charges, when this is done by the members of the Seimas themselves, is not the sole possible form of instituting impeachment proceedings; giving its consent to hold a person criminally liable, the Seimas also decides that the circumstances of the case will be investigated by the judicial institutions – the interrogation and a court, but not by any special investigation commission formed by the Seimas; this means that, if a court recognises that the person is guilty of having committed a crime, it will not be necessary later to submit a separate motion to institute impeachment for the crime having been committed (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 11 May 1999 and 25 January 2001);

the constitutional concept of impeachment implies that the objective of impeachment proceedings is to decide the question of the constitutional liability of the persons listed in Article 74 of the Constitution; it is the Seimas who decides on the constitutional sanction no matter whether it conducts full impeachment proceedings or entrusts the interrogation and a court with the establishment of the factual circumstances of a criminal case (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999).

10.2.3. It should be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that, under the Constitution, it is exclusively the Seimas who, while implementing its constitutional powers to conduct impeachment, is allowed to adopt a decision to institute impeachment proceedings against a particular person. Therefore, impeachment proceedings against a particular person for having committed a crime are instituted only upon the decision of the Seimas after the members of the Seimas formally bring charges against that person or after the effective judgment of conviction is received from a court. At the same time, giving its consent to hold a person criminally liable, the Seimas decides only to the extent that the circumstances important for applying impeachment for a crime having been committed will be established by judicial institutions; taking such a decision does not in itself constitute the institution of impeachment proceedings.

It should also be noted that, under the Constitution, the legal status of the President of the Republic as the Head of State is different from the legal status of all other state officials (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 19 June 2002, its conclusion of 31 March 2004, and its ruling of 13 May 2010); under Paragraph 1 of Article 86 of the Constitution, the person of the President of the Republic is inviolable: while in office, he/she may, among other things, be neither detained nor held criminally liable. Therefore, the special constitutional status of the President of the Republic, inter alia, the special immunity granted to him/her, which is evident in the fact that, among other things, the President of the Republic may not be held criminally liable while in office, determines that the circumstances important for the application of impeachment with regard to the President of the Republic for having committed a crime may be established exclusively by the Seimas.

10.2.4. It should be noted in this context that, in its ruling of 11 May 1999, the Constitutional Court held that, in a state under the rule of law, every branch of power (legislative, executive, or judicial) fulfils the functions vested in it and implements its competence; Paragraph 1 of Article 109 of the Constitution provides that, in Lithuania, justice is administered only by courts; whereas, under Article 74 of the Constitution, the Seimas is entrusted with conducting impeachment. In view of this, it needs to be emphasised that, when conducting impeachment for a crime having been committed, the Seimas itself may establish the circumstances important for the application of impeachment only in exceptional and constitutionally justifiable cases.

10.2.4.1. It has been mentioned that, when conducting impeachment, the Seimas itself may state the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it) only where such a fact is obvious; it has also been mentioned that the special constitutional status of the President of the Republic determines that the circumstances important for the application of impeachment with regard to him/her for having committed a crime may be established exclusively by the Seimas.

Thus, the Seimas itself may establish the circumstances important for impeachment imposed for a crime having been committed only in cases where the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it) is obvious, as well as in cases where impeachment is conducted against the President of the Republic. In all other cases, after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, impeachment for having committed a crime may be conducted only after the authorised judicial authorities establish the circumstances important for the application of impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, i.e. after the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it are established by the effective court judgment of conviction.

10.2.4.2. It should be noted in this context that the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it) can be considered obvious only where there is reliable information (submitted by the authorised institution to the Seimas) that a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution has been found in the act of committing a crime, and, in order to state the circumstances important for applying impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, i.e. to state the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it, the participation of judicial authorities carrying out pretrial investigation and considering criminal cases is not required. In other cases, inter alia, where a crime is committed by a person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution before taking up office, the fact of having committed a crime cannot be considered obvious; therefore, in these cases (except where impeachment is applied with regard to the President of the Republic), the circumstances important for the application of impeachment, i.e. the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it), must be established by the authorised judicial authorities after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable.

It should be noted that, even in the above-mentioned exceptional case where the fact of a crime having been committed is obvious and can be stated by the Seimas itself, the Seimas may also decide according to the procedure provided for in the Statute of the Seimas whether to give its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution (except the President of the Republic) criminally liable. After the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, the impeachment proceedings may be continued in the Seimas against the person for having committed a crime, the fact of having committed which is obvious, while the judicial authorities may at the same time decide the question concerning the criminal liability of that person. A different interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution (that, purportedly, after deciding to conduct impeachment for a crime the fact of having committed which is obvious, the Seimas would not be allowed to give its consent to hold the person having committed this crime criminally liable) would make it complicated to hold the said person criminally liable or would even create the preconditions for the person against whom impeachment is applied for a crime the fact of having committed which is obvious to escape criminal liability.

10.2.5. As mentioned before, within the meaning of the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution, a crime can be considered found to have been committed only after all the circumstances indisputably proving both the fact of the crime having been committed and the official having committed it have been established; it has also been mentioned that, after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, impeachment for having committed a crime may be conducted only after the authorised judicial authorities establish the circumstances important for the application of impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, i.e. after the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it are established by the effective court judgment of conviction (except where the fact of a crime having been committed (as well as the official having committed it) is obvious).

It should be mentioned that the three-level instance system of courts of general jurisdiction is established by law in Lithuania: in this system, the consideration of cases is assigned to the courts of first instance, the courts of appeal instance (where the facts that are important for solving a case are, inter alia, investigated and assessed anew), and the court of cassation instance (where the facts that are important for solving a case are not established anew, because this has already been done by the court of appeal instance, but the issues on the application of law are decided anew); under the Constitution, it is not permitted to establish such a legal regulation or form such court practice that would deny the constitutional nature of the Court of Appeal of Lithuania as a court of appeal instance and/or the Supreme Court of Lithuania as the court of cassation instance (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 28 March 2006).

Thus, impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime” in those cases where the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person criminally liable (except where the fact of a crime having been committed (as well as the official having committed it) is obvious) is permissible after the circumstances important for the application of impeachment have been indisputably established by the effective court judgment of conviction, i.e. conclusively (in view of the competence of courts belonging to the above-mentioned instance system of courts).

10.3. As mentioned before, under Article 74 of the Constitution, inter alia, if a person indicated in this article is found to have committed a crime, he/she may be removed from office or have his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas revoked by a 3/5 majority vote of all the members of the Seimas; this is done according to the procedure for impeachment proceedings, which is established by the Statute of the Seimas.

10.3.1. In the context of this constitutional justice case, mention should be made of the following provisions of the official constitutional doctrine, inter alia, those revealing the powers granted to state authority institutions in impeachment proceeding in cases where it is found that a crime has been committed:

under the Constitution, the powers in impeachment proceedings are granted to two state authority institutions – the Seimas and the Constitutional Court; each of these state institutions is, under the Constitution, assigned the powers that are in line with their functions in impeachment proceedings (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 15 April 2004 and 25 May 2004 and its conclusion of 3 June 2014);

in a democratic state under the rule of law, a person who grossly violates the Constitution and breaches his/her oath should not escape constitutional liability – removal from office; therefore, under the Constitution, the Seimas, which decides whether to remove a person from office or to revoke his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas through impeachment proceedings for having committed a crime, bears the responsibility to ascertain whether, at the same time, the Constitution was grossly violated and the oath was breached as a result of the crime having been committed (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 25 May 2004);

under the Constitution, only the Constitutional Court has the powers to decide whether the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution have grossly violated the Constitution if against them an impeachment case has been instituted (in view of the fact that a gross violation of the Constitution is also a breach of the oath, the Constitutional Court also has the powers to decide whether such persons have breached their oath); the conclusion of the Constitution Court that a person has grossly violated the Constitution (and, thus, has breached his/her oath) is final (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004);

according to the Constitution, if there are the grounds provided for in Article 74 of the Constitution, only the Seimas has the powers to decide whether to remove a person from office or to revoke his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas through impeachment proceedings – these issues may not be decided by referendum or election or by any other state institution, state official, or subject; at the same time, a decision of the Seimas, as the representation of the Nation, to remove from office a particular state official indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution or to revoke his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas through impeachment proceedings entails the implementation of the sovereign powers of the Nation through its democratically elected representatives; if the Seimas, following the Constitution, removes from office a state official specified in Article 74 of the Constitution or revokes his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas through impeachment proceedings, such a decision of the Seimas is final (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004).

10.3.2. As mentioned before, although, under Article 74 of the Constitution, impeachment may be applied for both a crime committed by a person before taking up a position specified in this article and a crime committed while holding such a position, the circumstance that the particular actions had been committed by a person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution before taking the oath implies the specific features of the impeachment process itself.

It should be noted in this context that a crime having been committed does not mean that the person has, at the same time, violated the Constitution, or breached the oath, or that, in his/her activity, the said person has not observed the Constitution or failed to act in the interests of the Nation and the State of Lithuania, etc.; some crimes may be not directly related to a breach of the oath provided for in the Constitution or to a gross violation of the Constitution (the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 25 May 2004 and 5 September 2012 and its decision of 10 May 2016); where a person is “found to have committed a crime”, it is only the Constitutional Court that could state in a concrete case whether there is also a gross violation of the Constitution, as well as, respectively, a breach of the oath (the Constitutional Court’s decision of 10 May 2016).

In its decision of 10 May 2016, the Constitutional Court has held the following:

under the Constitution, the Seimas decides whether to remove, through impeachment proceedings, a person from office or to revoke his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas for having committed a crime. By filing with the Constitutional Court an inquiry regarding the constitutionality of the concrete actions of a person against whom an impeachment case has been instituted, the Seimas implements its responsibility to ascertain whether the Constitution was grossly violated and the oath was breached as a result of a crime having been committed;

the application of the impeachment grounds “found to have committed a crime” does not imply the powers of the Seimas to apply to the Constitutional Court with an inquiry whether the concrete actions of a member of the Seimas against whom an impeachment case has been instituted are in conflict with the Constitution in cases where the said actions could not violate the Constitution in a gross manner or breach the oath of the member of the Seimas because these actions had been performed before the said oath was taken; respectively, where the impeachment grounds “found to have committed a crime” are applied, the Constitutional Court does not have the powers to assess the constitutionality of any such actions by which the Constitution could not be violated in a gross manner and the oath could not be breached by a member of the Seimas because the said actions had been performed before the member of the Seimas took his/her oath; otherwise, the constitutional concept of impeachment would be disregarded.

It should be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that the above-indicated provisions of the official constitutional doctrine are mutatis mutandis also applicable in cases where impeachment is imposed on other persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

Thus, under the Constitution, in the event of the application of impeachment with regard to a person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution for a crime committed by this person before taking an oath (i.e. before taking up office), no inquiry must be filed with the Constitutional Court asking whether the concrete actions of the person against whom an impeachment case has been instituted are in conflict with the Constitution.

11. It should also be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that, as mentioned before, under Article 74 of the Constitution, the procedure for impeachment proceedings is established by the Statute of the Seimas.

The Constitutional Court has held that this provision of the Constitution implies the discretion of the Seimas to establish, in the Statute of the Seimas, the subjects who may initiate impeachment, the way in which impeachment may be initiated, the procedure for conducting impeachment, the procedure for adopting a decision regarding the removal of the person concerned from office or the revocation of his/her mandate of a member of the Seimas, etc. The Seimas, regulating impeachment proceedings, must pay regard to the norms and principles of the Constitution and must respect the constitutional concept of impeachment and the rights of the person against whom impeachment is applied (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 15 April 2004).

In the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, it has also been held that several grounds for impeachment are established in Article 74 of the Constitution; therefore, the Statute of the Seimas may provide for such a procedure for impeachment that would take account of the differences in the constitutional grounds for impeachment. The conformity of the procedure for impeachment with the Constitution depends on whether or not the Seimas, in establishing the specific features of impeachment proceedings, diverges from the constitutional concept of this procedure (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 11 May 1999).

IV

The assessment of the compliance of Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution

12. As mentioned before, in this constitutional justice case, the Constitutional Court is investigating whether Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution, insofar as, according to the petitioner, it provides that impeachment may be applied on the grounds of being found to have committed only such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

13. The doubts of the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, regarding the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution are substantiated by the fact that this legal regulation unreasonably limits the possibility of applying impeachment as consolidated in Article 74 of the Constitution: in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to committing acts contrary to the Constitution while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution; whereas, under Article 74 of the Constitution, the possibility of applying impeachment is linked to the fact of being found to have committed a crime, i.e. these grounds for impeachment are not dependent on the time of committing a crime, whether while holding office specified in this article or not.

In the opinion of the petitioner, having thus provided no preconditions for applying impeachment on one of its constitutional grounds, i.e. on the grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, in cases where a crime is committed before the person takes up a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, the impugned legal regulation laid down in the Statute of the Seimas violates the requirements stemming from this article.

14. In deciding whether the legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution, it should be noted that, as mentioned before:

under the Constitution, inter alia, Article 74 thereof, the constitutional purpose of impeachment as one of the instruments of the self-protection of civil society is public democratic control over the activity of the highest state officials, which creates the preconditions for imposing constitutional liability on them: removing from office those officials or revoking the mandate of those members of the Seimas who bring discredit on state authority by their actions and, due to this, lose the confidence of the citizens;

the impeachment grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, as specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, are not linked to the time when a crime was committed; in view of the constitutional purpose of impeachment, under Article 74 of the Constitution, impeachment may be applied for both a crime committed by a person before taking up office specified in this article and a crime committed by a person while already holding office; a different interpretation of the provisions of Article 74 of the Constitution would be incompatible with the constitutional purpose of impeachment, since it would provide the preconditions for holding office by those highest state officials who, once it is found that they had committed a crime before taking up office, would bring discredit on state authority and, due to this, would lose the confidence of the citizens;

the Seimas, regulating impeachment proceedings, must pay regard to the norms and principles of the Constitution and must respect the constitutional concept of impeachment.

14.1. It has been mentioned that, under the legal regulation laid down in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, impeachment against the persons indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution – the President of the Republic, the President or justices of the Constitutional Court, the President or justices of the Supreme Court, the President or judges of the Court of Appeal, or the members of the Seimas – may be applied only for such a crime that is found to have been committed while the said persons were in office.

Thus, under the impugned legal regulation laid down in the Statute of the Seimas, the application of impeachment with regard to the persons specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is linked to the time when a crime was committed and impeachment may be applied on the indicated grounds exclusively for crimes committed by the persons concerned while holding the positions specified in that article.

14.2. Consequently, since the impugned legal regulation laid down in relation to impeachment proceedings in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas provides for the possibility of applying impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime” only in cases where the actions, implying the application of impeachment on the said grounds, were committed by a person while already holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, this legal regulation disregards the fact that, under the Constitution, impeachment on the said grounds could be applied irrespective of whether a crime found to have been committed had been committed by the person before taking up or while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution.

It should be held that, having established the impugned legal regulation in relation to impeachment proceedings in Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, the Seimas narrowed the possibility of applying impeachment for a crime having been committed, as entrenched in Article 74 of the Constitution; thus, the Seimas disregarded the constitutional concept of impeachment.

15. In view of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, insofar as it provides that impeachment may be applied on the grounds of being found to have committed only such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution.

V

The legal consequences of declaring Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas in conflict with the Constitution

16. Under Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution and Paragraph 1 of Article 72 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, a law (or part thereof) or another act (or part thereof) of the Seimas, an act of the President of the Republic, or an act (or part thereof) of the Government may not be applied from the day of the official publication of the ruling of the Constitutional Court that the act in question (or part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution.

In this ruling, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas, which defines the concept of impeachment proceedings, insofar as it provides that impeachment may be applied on the grounds of being found to have committed only such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution, is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution.

Upon the entry into force of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, in line with the provisions of the Statute of the Seimas, impeachment should also be applicable for such a crime that is committed before a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution takes up office, and transpires while the person is already holding office; accordingly, the duty arises for the Seimas to modify the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings, i.e. to create the preconditions for applying impeachment also in the event of a crime as indicated above.

17. It has been mentioned that Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas provides for the duty of the Seimas to refer to the Constitutional Court for a conclusion in cases where the Seimas receives a copy of an effective court judgment of conviction.

17.1. It should be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that, although, as mentioned before, the said duty of the Seimas in Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is not expressis verbis linked to the time when a crime – leading to impeachment once it transpires – was committed, whether before taking up office or while holding it, under this legal regulation, having received a copy of an effective court judgment of conviction, the Seimas would be obliged to refer to the Constitutional Court for a respective conclusion only in cases where a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is found guilty of having committed a crime that could grossly violate the Constitution and breach the oath, i.e. only such a crime that is committed by the person while holding office.

Only if interpreted in this way does the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas create the preconditions for respecting the powers stemming from the Constitution for the state authority institutions in impeachment proceedings.

17.2. It should be emphasised in this context that, upon the entry into force of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, in which Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is found in conflict with the Constitution, when modifying the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings, the Seimas should also modify the provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 239 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas so that they would clearly provide for the duty of the Seimas, after it receives an effective court judgment of conviction, to refer to the Constitutional Court only in cases where a person specified in Article 74 of the Constitution is found guilty of having committed a crime that could grossly violate the Constitution and breach the oath, i.e. only where impeachment is applied for such a crime that is committed by the person while holding office.

18. It should also be noted in the context of this constitutional justice case that legal certainty and clarity, which is one of the essential elements of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, implies that any legal regulation is subject to certain mandatory requirements: a legal regulation must be clear and harmonious; legal norms must be formulated precisely and may not contain any ambiguities (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 30 May 2003 and 11 July 2014); formulations in legal acts must be precise; the consistency and internal harmony of the legal system must be ensured; and legal acts may not contain provisions simultaneously regulating the same social relations in a different manner (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 13 December 2004, 29 September 2005, and 11 July 2014).

18.1. Exercising the discretion conferred on it to regulate the procedure for impeachment proceedings, the Seimas should clearly and precisely formulate legal norms so that they are understandable to all participants of the related legal relations.

18.2. It has been mentioned that the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 6 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas is unclear, since it can be understood in different ways, among other things, as also meaning that the consent of the Seimas to hold a person criminally liable also constitutes the beginning of impeachment proceedings against that person.

As mentioned before, according to the legal regulation of impeachment proceedings consolidated in the Statute of the Seimas, impeachment proceedings are in all cases instituted only by a resolution of the Seimas to institute impeachment proceedings against a particular person in the Seimas; if the Seimas gives its consent to hold a person criminally liable, the said resolution of the Seimas is adopted only after the Seimas receives a copy of the effective court judgment of conviction, i.e. only after it has been found that a particular person, referred to in Article 74 of the Constitution, has committed a crime; thus, after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a person criminally liable, impeachment proceedings are not instituted.

18.3. Thus, it should be noted that, upon the entry into force of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, when modifying the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings consolidated in the Statute of the Seimas, in order to ensure the clarity and harmony of this legal regulation, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 6 of Article 228 (wording of 9 November 2004) of the Statute of the Seimas should also be modified by taking into account the specificity of the impeachment procedure as implied by the constitutional powers of the Seimas to conduct impeachment proceedings, i.e. the fact that, under the Constitution, impeachment proceedings start only upon the adoption by the Seimas of a resolution to institute impeachment proceedings against a particular person in the Seimas.

19. The Constitutional Court has noted on more than one occasion that the legislature, while passing new laws or amending and supplementing those in force, may not disregard the concept of the provisions of the Constitution or other legal arguments set out in a ruling of the Constitutional Court that has been officially published and has become effective; every ruling of the Constitutional Court constitutes a single whole; all law-making subjects are bound by the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, inter alia, the official constitutional doctrine – the official concept (official interpretation) of the provisions of the Constitution (norms and principles of the Constitution) – formulated in the jurisprudence (reasoning parts of the acts) of the Constitutional Court, as well as by other legal arguments set out in the acts of the Constitutional Court.

Thus, it should be noted that, upon the entry into force of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings consolidated in the Statute of the Seimas should be modified by taking into account not only the operative part of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, but also the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine formulated therein.

19.1. When modifying the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings, the Seimas should pay regard, among other things, to the following provisions of the official constitutional doctrine:

the Seimas itself may establish the circumstances important for impeachment imposed for a crime having been committed only in cases where the fact of a crime having been committed (also the official having committed it) is obvious, as well as in cases where impeachment is conducted against the President of the Republic; in all other cases, after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, impeachment for having committed a crime may be conducted only after the authorised judicial authorities establish the circumstances important for the application of impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime”, i.e. after the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it are established by an effective court judgment of conviction;

the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it) can be considered obvious only where there is reliable information (submitted by the authorised institution to the Seimas) that a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution was found in the act of committing a crime, and, in order to state the circumstances important for applying impeachment on the constitutional grounds “found to have committed a crime”, i.e. to state the fact of a crime having been committed and the official having committed it, the participation of the authorised judicial authorities carrying out pretrial investigation and considering criminal cases is not required; in other cases, inter alia, where a crime is committed by a person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution before taking up office, the fact of having committed a crime cannot be considered obvious; therefore, in these cases (except where impeachment is applied with regard to the President of the Republic), the circumstances important for the application of impeachment, i.e. the fact of a crime having been committed (and the official having committed it), must be established by judicial authorities after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable;

even in the exceptional case where the fact of a crime having been committed is obvious and can be stated by the Seimas itself, the Seimas may also decide according to the procedure provided for in the Statute of the Seimas whether to give its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution (except the President of the Republic) criminally liable; after the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person indicated in Article 74 of the Constitution criminally liable, the impeachment proceedings may be continued in the Seimas against the person for having committed a crime, the fact of having committed which is obvious, while the judicial authorities may at the same time decide the question concerning the criminal liability of that person;

impeachment on the constitutional grounds of being “found to have committed a crime” in those cases where the Seimas gives its consent to hold a particular person criminally liable (except where the fact of a crime having been committed (as well as the official having committed it) is obvious) is permissible after the circumstances important for the application of impeachment have been indisputably established by an effective court judgment of conviction, i.e. conclusively (in view of the competence of courts belonging to the instance system of courts of general jurisdiction).

19.2. When modifying the overall legal regulation of impeachment proceedings, the Seimas should also take into account that, as noted by the Constitutional Court in its ruling of 11 May 1999, the special requirements for impeachment are determined by the status of the officials against whom impeachment may be applied. Under the Constitution, the legal status of the President of the Republic as the Head of State is different from the legal status of all other state officials (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 19 June 2002, its conclusion of 31 March 2004, and its ruling of 13 May 2010); under the Constitution, inter alia, the legal status of the members of the Seimas, the justices of the Constitutional Court, and the judges of other courts is different (the Constitutional Court’s ruling 25 May 2004).

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:

To recognise that Article 227 (wording of 9 November 2004; Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2004, No 165-6025) of the Statute of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, insofar as it provides that impeachment may be applied on the grounds of being found to have committed only such a crime that is committed by the person concerned while holding a position specified in Article 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, is in conflict with Article 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

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

Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė
                                                                      Vytautas Greičius
                                                                      Danutė Jočienė
                                                                      Pranas Kuconis
                                                                      Gediminas Mesonis
                                                                      Egidijus Šileikis
                                                                      Algirdas Taminskas
                                                                      Dainius Žalimas