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On right-hand-drive vehicles on public roads

Case No. 18/2012

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

IN THE NAME OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 RULING

ON THE COMPLIANCE OF PARAGRAPH 4 (WORDINGS OF 15 APRIL 2010 AND 13 JUNE 2013) OF ARTICLE 25 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON ROAD TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ITEM 240 (WORDINGS OF 16 JULY 2008 AND 29 FEBRUARY 2012) OF THE ROAD TRAFFIC RULES, AS APPROVED BY THE RESOLUTION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA (NO. 1950) “ON THE APPROVAL OF THE ROAD TRAFFIC RULES” OF 11 DECEMBER 2002, WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 6 February 2015, No. KT6-N2/2015

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

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1 and 531 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Court’s hearing, on 3 February 2015, considered, under written procedure, constitutional justice case No. 18/2012 subsequent to the petition (No. 1B-27/2012) of the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Road Traffic Safety and Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), as approved by the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, are not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

The petition of the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, is substantiated by the following arguments.

Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety (hereinafter also referred to as the Law) and Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002 (hereinafter also referred to as the Road Traffic Rules), lay down the legal regulation consolidating the different treatment of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, although, between these groups of persons, there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent that the established different treatment would be objectively justified, since liability for the use of a vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road arises only for the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

II

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

The constitutional principle of the equality of all persons does not deny the possibility for the legislature to establish, by means of a law, a differentiated legal regulation with regard to certain categories of persons who are in a different situation, nor does it deny the fact that the variety of social life can determine the means and content of a certain legal regulation. The Lithuanian road infrastructure is not designed for the use of vehicles with the steering wheel on the right-hand side; such vehicles are designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and are unsafe to be regularly used in Lithuania; the use of these vehicles would increase the possibility of crashes (the same view was set out in the reasoned opinion of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe addressed to the Republic of Lithuania regarding motor vehicles with their steering wheel fitted on the right side). Due to these reasons, the legislation of the Republic of Lithuania provides for certain limitations on the exploitation of the said vehicles.

The legislature, while establishing the differentiated legal regulation with regard to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, took account of traffic safety requirements and has established the concessional regulation with regard to the latter group of citizens as an exception, permitting them to drive, on public roads, vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right. In establishing the legal regulation in question, the legislature took account of a short-term character of the exploitation of the said vehicles in the Republic of Lithuania and sought not to hinder the possibilities of transit through Lithuania.

  1. In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court’s hearing, written explanations were received from Vidmantas Pumputis, the Head of the Traffic Safety Division of the Road Transport and Civil Aviation Policy Department of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania, and Irina Urbonė, the Deputy Director of the Law and Internal Investigations Department of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania, both acting as the representatives of the government, a party concerned, where it is also maintained that the impugned legal regulation is not in conflict with the Constitution.

2.1. The position of Vidmantas Pumputis, acting as a representative of the government, a party concerned, is substantiated by the following arguments.

The prohibition on driving, on public roads, vehicles equipped with the steering wheel on the right-hand side is aimed at ensuring traffic safety. A vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and equipped with the steering wheel on the right is unsafe to be regularly used in Lithuania, since: 1) while driving at night-time, drivers would not be able to properly adjust (change) headlights, which would dazzle the drivers of vehicles arriving towards them; 2) during overtaking, due to poor visibility, these vehicles would pose a risk to traffic safety; 3) there are no specially designed overtaking zones on Lithuanian roads; 4) reduced visibility would make turning left more difficult; 5) when using passenger vehicles (buses, microbuses) with the passenger door on the left, the risks would arise to the safety of passengers during drop-off and pick-up; 6) such load-carrying vehicles (Category N), carrying heavy, large, and dangerous freight, would considerably increase the risks to public traffic.

The exceptions with regard to the persons arriving in Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days) in vehicles in question have been established in Paragraph 4 of Article 25 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Road Traffic Safety by taking account of the principles of justice and reasonableness, as well as of the objective circumstances that the said persons are residents of a foreign state and are staying in Lithuania for a limited period of time.

2.2. The position of Irina Urbonė, acting as a representative of the government, a party concerned, is substantiated by the following arguments.

The prohibition on the regular exploitation of vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and equipped with the steering wheel on the right in the Republic of Lithuania is founded upon the aim of ensuring public safety and securing the public interest—road traffic safety, thus protecting the lives, health, and property of traffic participants and other persons. The risks would considerably increase due to the constructional properties of these vehicles (since, in the case of using these vehicles, the driver’s vision of oncoming traffic is obscured, especially in overtaking manoeuvres; the risks also increase when such a vehicle is going by other vehicles; a several times larger distance from the driver’s position to the left-side rear-view mirror and the change in the field of vision obscure visibility; the construction of the headlights is designed to optimise lighting on the left-hand side, and, as a result, these vehicles dazzle the drivers of oncoming vehicles to a greater extent; the visibility of the edge of the roadway is heavily reduced, which creates a danger of a cyclist, a pedestrian, or an obstacle not being seen).

The exceptions to the prohibition at issue have been established in order to legitimise the opportunity in exceptional cases to use special vehicles on roads, as well as in order to avoid too severe a restriction of the freedom of movement of persons arriving in the Republic of Lithuania for a temporary period of time in vehicles registered abroad. The limitation, as imposed by the legal regulation in question, on using, on public roads, vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right is founded on the reasons of the exploitation frequency and numerousness of these vehicles on public roads in the Republic of Lithuania. The foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, as well as the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in the aforementioned vehicles registered abroad, exploit these vehicles in Lithuania for a short period of time, and the number of such vehicles is not large. The exploitation of these vehicles on a temporary and exceptional basis does not have any considerable negative impact on traffic safety; therefore, the impugned prohibition has been established only with regard to the regular exploitation of vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

I

  1. It has been mentioned that the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety and Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) are not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. On 22 November 2007, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania’s Law Amending the Law on Road Traffic Safety, which came into force (with certain exceptions) on 1 July 2008. By means of that law, the Law on Road Traffic Safety was amended and set forth in its new wording.

With a view to protecting the lives, health, and property of traffic participants and other persons, as well as improving traffic conditions for transport and pedestrians, this law establishes the following: the legal bases for road traffic safety in the Republic of Lithuania; the duties of state and municipal institutions and establishments in implementing the traffic safety policy; the training of traffic participants; the main rights and duties of traffic participants, persons responsible for road maintenance, the police, customs officials, and other officials conducting supervision; the main requirements for the technical condition of vehicles, for the inspection of the technical condition of vehicles, and for the registration of vehicles; as well as the traffic safety requirements for roads (Paragraph 1 of Article 1).

The Law on Road Traffic Safety (wording of 22 November 2007) has been amended and/or supplemented on more than one occasion.

  1. Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 “The General Requirements for Motor Vehicles and Their Trailers” of the Law prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of historical motor vehicles in accordance with the legislation.”

Thus, the aforementioned paragraph consolidates the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right. In addition, this paragraph provides that the said prohibition does not apply to: certain vehicles that meet the indicated criteria, as well as certain persons who are temporarily (up to 90 days per year) exempt from this prohibition.

3.1. When construing the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law in conjunction with the purpose of this law, as established in Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Law, it is possible to draw the conclusion that the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law is aimed at implementing the public interest of ensuring road traffic safety, thus reducing the risks related to driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

3.2. Under Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, the prohibition in question does not apply to the motor vehicles that:

– were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993;

– as a result of their construction and equipment, are intended for specific operational functions;

– in accordance with the legislation, belong to the category of historical motor vehicles.

 The prohibition under the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law also does not apply to the following persons arriving in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad:

– the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania;

– the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state.

3.3. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be noted that the exception, provided for in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, to the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, under which the said prohibition does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, includes the situations where the citizen permanently resides and the vehicle is registered in a foreign state where traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road and where, as a rule, vehicles constructed for such traffic (i.e., equipped with the steering wheel on the right) are used on public roads, as well as the situations where the citizen permanently resides and the vehicle is registered in a foreign state where traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.

3.4. It should also be noted that, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania are prohibited from driving, on public roads (even on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year)), any foreign-registered vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

3.5. Thus, Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety provides, inter alia, for the legal regulation under which the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad; however, the said prohibition applies to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

  1. The petitioner, drawing on the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine, maintains that, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, on the one hand, and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, on the other, are treated differently, although, between these groups of persons, there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent that would objectively justify the established different treatment, since, according to the impugned legal regulation, liability for the use of a vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road arises only for the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

Although the petitioner requests an investigation into the compliance of entire Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety with the Constitution, the petitioner’s petition and the material of the case on a violation of administrative law make it clear that the compliance of the said paragraph of Article 25 of the Law with Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is impugned insofar as it provides that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, provides that the said prohibition applies to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

  1. It should be noted that certain exceptions established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law to the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, under which the said prohibition does not apply to the motor vehicles registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, vehicles intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment, and vehicles belonging to the category of historical motor vehicles in accordance with the legislation, as well as the related exception with regard to the foreigners who arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad and do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, are not a matter for an investigation in the constitutional justice case at issue.
  2. By Article 18 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 33 of and Annex to the Law on Road Traffic Safety, as well as Supplementing the Law with Articles 61 and 271, which was adopted by the Seimas on 13 June 2013, Article 25 of the Law was amended and supplemented. Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles and/or their trailers designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of historical motor vehicles in accordance with the legislation.”

The comparison of the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law with that established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law makes it clear that the legal regulation at issue differs only in the aspect that, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law, in addition to vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road, it is also prohibited to use, on public roads, trailers designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road.

Thus, having compared the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law with the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, it is clear that the legal regulation in question has not changed from the aspect impugned by the petitioner.

  1. It has been mentioned that the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) is not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of antiques in accordance with the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Protection of Movable Cultural Objects.”

Thus, Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) establishes the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right. In addition, it provides for certain exceptions to the said prohibition. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be noted that, under the legal regulation established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state have the right to temporarily (up to 90 days per year) drive, on public roads, foreign-registered vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, whereas the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania do not have any such right.

  1. The comparison of Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) with Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety makes it clear that the provisions of Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), from the aspect impugned by the petitioner, are the same as the corresponding provisions of Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law. Thus, under the legal regulation as established both in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) and Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, however, the said prohibition applies to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.
  2. In this context, it should be noted that the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, was considering the case subsequent to a complaint against a decision issued by a police official in a case on a violation of administrative law, which imposed an administrative penalty on a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania in accordance with Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter also referred to as the CAVL) for violating the requirements set in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules: i.e., for driving, on public roads, a vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road.

10.1. Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 “Failure to Comply with the Road Sign Requirements and the Violation of the Passenger Transportation and Road Traffic Rules” (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL prescribes:

“The drivers violating the Road Traffic Rules other than those specified in this Code

shall be issued a warning or incur a fine from twenty to forty litas.”

Thus, Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL provides for administrative liability for those violations of the requirements of the Road Traffic Rules that are not directly indicated in other paragraphs of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) or other articles of the CAVL.

10.2. Consequently, Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) and Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL lay down such a legal regulation under which a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, once he/she drives, on public roads, a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, violates the requirements established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) and commits the violation of administrative law referred to in Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL. According to this legal regulation, a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once he/she temporarily (up to 90 days per year) drives, on public roads, a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, does not violate the requirements established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008).

  1. By Item 1.26 of the Government Resolution (No. 224) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1950) ‘On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules’ of 11 December 2002” of 29 February 2012, Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) was amended. Item 240 (wording of 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of historical motor vehicles in accordance with the legislation.”

The comparison of the legal regulation established in Item 240 (wording of 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules with that established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) makes it clear that the legal regulation in question remained unchanged from the aspect impugned by the petitioner.

  1. It should be mentioned that, by Item 1.2 of its Resolution (No. 1086) “On Amending the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1950) ‘On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules’ of 11 December 2002” of 3 October 2014, the Government amended the Road Traffic Rules (with the subsequent amendments and supplements), as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, and set them forth in a new wording. The Road Traffic Rules (wording of 3 October 2014) no longer contain the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

II

On the compliance of Paragraph 4 (wordings of 15 April 2010 and 13 June 2013) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law

  1. It has been mentioned that the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety is not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. It has also been mentioned that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of historical motor vehicles in accordance with the legislation.”

  1. As mentioned before, in the opinion of the petitioner, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, on the one hand, and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, on the other, are treated differently, although, between these groups of persons, there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent that would objectively justify the established different treatment, since, according to the impugned legal regulation, liability for the use of a vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road arises only with regard to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.
  2. Thus, the legal regulation impugned in the constitutional justice case at issue is being investigated from the aspect of the equality of the rights of the citizens whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, on the one hand, and the citizens whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

4.1. Paragraph 1 of Article 32 of the Constitution prescribes: “A citizen may move and choose his place of residence in Lithuania freely and may leave Lithuania freely.”

The freedom of movement guaranteed to a citizen is a significant element of the constitutional status of a member of a civil community. The provisions of Article 32 of the Constitution mean that it is only a citizen himself/herself who has the right to decide in which place of the territory of the Republic of Lithuania to stay, when to leave this place and move to another place, to freely decide as to which permanent or temporary place of residence to choose, and to decide whether to stay in Lithuania or leave, as well as the right to choose himself/herself the time of departure (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 29 December 2004).

4.2. The Constitutional Court, while construing the provisions of Article 29 of the Constitution, has held on more than one occasion that the constitutional principle of the equality of all persons before the law, as consolidated in the said article, requires that fundamental rights and duties be established in law equally to all; this principle means the right of a person to be treated equally with others; it imposes the obligation to assess homogenous facts in the same manner and the prohibition against arbitrarily assessing, in a different manner, facts that are, in substance, the same, but it does not deny any differentiated legal regulation, established by law, with respect to certain categories of persons who are in different situations. The constitutional principle of the equality of persons before the law would be violated if certain persons or groups of such persons were treated in a different manner, even though there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent between the said groups of persons so that their uneven treatment could be objectively justified (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 29 June 2012 and 15 February 2013); in assessing whether a certain established differentiated legal regulation is well-grounded, it is necessary to take into account concrete legal circumstances; first of all, consideration must be given to differences in the legal situation of the subjects and objects to which a certain differentiated legal regulation is applied (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 29 June 2010, 6 February 2012, and 22 February 2013).

The Constitutional Court has noted that the principle of the equality of rights of persons, as consolidated in Article 29 of the Constitution, implies the duty of the legislature to establish an equal (non-differentiated) legal regulation with regard to certain categories of persons who are in the same situation where there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent between the said groups of persons so that their uneven treatment could be objectively justified (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 22 February 2013).

4.3. The principle of the equality of rights of persons, which is consolidated in the Constitution, inter alia, Article 29 thereof, is inseparable from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, which is a universal principle, upon which the entire Lithuanian legal system and the Constitution itself are based (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 28 May 2010 and 15 February 2013).

The constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, as noted by the Constitutional Court on more than one occasion, implies that the legislature and other law-making subjects must observe a number of various requirements, inter alia: the requirements established in legal acts must be grounded on the provisions of a general character (i.e., on certain legal norms and principles), which could be applied to all provided subjects of certain legal relations; any differentiated legal regulation must be based only on objective differences of the situation of the subjects of certain public relations regulated by the respective legal acts; when legally regulating certain public relations, it is obligatory to pay heed to the requirements of natural justice, comprising, inter alia, the necessity to ensure the equality of persons before the law, the court, state institutions and officials, etc. (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 28 March 2010).

It should be noted that, as held by the Constitutional Court, any violation of the constitutional principle of the equality of rights of persons is, at the same time, a violation of the constitutional imperatives of justice and harmonious society, and, thus, also a violation of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 6 February 2012 and 22 February 2013).

4.4. In the context of the constitutional justice case at issue, it should be noted that the constitutional principles of the equality of rights of persons and a state under the rule of law give rise to the prohibition according to which, when establishing, by law, a legal regulation based on which a person acquires certain rights, the legislature is not allowed, without objective justification, to consolidate a differentiated legal regulation depending on whether a citizen, having exercised his/her constitutional freedom of movement, has chosen his/her permanent place of residence in the Republic of Lithuania or in a foreign state.

  1. While deciding whether Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, to the specified extent, was not in conflict with Paragraph 1 of Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, it should be noted that, as mentioned before, Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law established, inter alia, the legal regulation under which the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad; however, the said prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania.

Thus, according to that legal regulation, the criterion determining whether a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania arriving in the Republic of Lithuania for a temporary (up to 90 days per year) period of time in a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right has the right to drive on public roads is the permanent place of residence of the citizen: where the permanent place of residence of the citizen is in a foreign state, he/she has the right to drive, on public roads in the Republic of Lithuania for a temporary (up to 90 days per year) period of time, a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, in which he/she has arrived in the Republic of Lithuania, whereas where the permanent place of residence of the citizen is in the Republic of Lithuania, he/she does not have any such right.

In addition, as mentioned before, Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) and Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL lay down the legal regulation under which a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, once he/she has driven, on public roads, a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, violates the requirements established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) and commits the violation of administrative law referred to in Paragraph 7 of Article 1241 (wording of 14 December 2010) of the CAVL; according to this legal regulation, a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once he/she has temporarily (up to 90 days per year) driven, on public roads, a foreign-registered vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, in which he/she has arrived in the Republic of Lithuania, does not violate the requirements established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008).

5.1. It has been mentioned that the constitutional principle of the equality of all persons before the law, which is consolidated in Article 29 of the Constitution, requires that the fundamental rights and duties be established by law equally to all; the constitutional principle of the equality of persons would be violated if certain persons or their groups were treated in a different manner, even though there are no differences of such a character and to such an extent between the said persons or their groups so that their uneven treatment could be objectively justified.

It has also been mentioned that that the constitutional principles of the equality of rights of persons and a state under the rule of law give rise to the prohibition according to which, when establishing, by law, a legal regulation based on which a person acquires certain rights, the legislature is not allowed, without objective justification, to consolidate any differentiated legal regulation depending on whether a citizen, having exercised his/her constitutional freedom of movement, has chosen his/her permanent place of residence in the Republic of Lithuania or in a foreign state.

5.2. Consequently, in order to decide whether the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, to the specified extent, is not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution, it is necessary to assess whether there are between the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania any differences of such a character and to such an extent that would enable the legislature to establish, with respect to these groups of persons, a differentiated legal regulation regarding driving, on public roads, foreign-registered motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

5.2.1. It has been mentioned that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety establishes the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right. In addition, it provides for certain exceptions: it is established that the said prohibition does not apply to certain vehicles that meet the indicated criteria, as well as to certain persons who are temporarily (up to 90 days per year) exempt from this prohibition, inter alia, the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania for a temporary period (up to 90 days per year) in foreign-registered vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

It has also been mentioned that the legal regulation in question is aimed at implementing the public interest of ensuring road traffic safety, thus reducing the risks related to driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right.

5.2.2. It has also been mentioned that that the exception, provided for in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, to the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, under which the said prohibition does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, includes the situations where the citizen permanently resides and the vehicle is registered in a foreign state where traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road and where, as a rule, vehicles constructed for such traffic (i.e., equipped with the steering wheel on the right) are used on public roads, as well as the situations where the citizen permanently resides and the vehicle is registered in a foreign state where traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road.

5.2.3. While assessing, in terms of traffic safety in the Republic of Lithuania, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, which includes the aforementioned situations, the conclusion should be drawn that there is no ground for stating that a citizen whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state where traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road and where, as a rule, vehicles constructed for such traffic (i.e., equipped with the steering wheel on the right) are used on public roads, or a citizen whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state where traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road, but where it is permitted to register motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, while temporarily driving, on public roads in the Republic of Lithuania, a foreign-registered motor vehicle designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, in which he/she has arrived in the Republic of Lithuania, poses a lower risk to traffic safety than a citizen whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania.

Thus, there is no legal ground to objectively justify the different treatment of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania falling under these categories—those whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state and those whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania—insofar as this different treatment is connected with the permission to temporarily drive, on public roads, foreign-registered vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right. Therefore, it should be held that, when establishing the legal regulation impugned in the constitutional justice case at issue to the specified extent, consolidating the different treatment of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state and the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, the legislature paid no heed to the principle of the equality of rights of persons, which is consolidated in Article 29 of the Constitution, and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

5.3. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

  1. It has been mentioned that, by Article 18 of the Law Amending and Supplementing Articles 2, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, and 33 of and Annex to the Law on Road Traffic Safety, as well as Supplementing the Law with Articles 61 and 271, which was adopted by the Seimas on 13 June 2013, Article 25 of the Law was amended and supplemented. It has also been mentioned that the legal regulation established in Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law, if compared to that established in Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law, has not changed from the aspect impugned by the petitioner.

6.1. It has been held in this Constitutional Court’s ruling that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

6.2. Having held this, on the grounds of the same arguments, it should be held that Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law, to the corresponding extent, is also in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

6.3.  In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it establishes that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles and/or their trailers designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, establishes that such a prohibition applies to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, is in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

III

On the compliance of Item 240 (wordings of 16 July 2008 and 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules, as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law

  1. It has been mentioned that the Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into whether Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) is not in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. It has also been mentioned that Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) prescribes:

“It shall be prohibited to drive, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right, except where they were registered in the Republic of Lithuania before 1 May 1993, or where they are intended for specific operational functions as a result of their construction and equipment. This prohibition shall not apply to the foreigners who do not hold a temporary or permanent permit for residence in the Republic of Lithuania, also to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, where they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, as well as to vehicles belonging to the category of antiques in accordance with the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on the Protection of Movable Cultural Objects.”

  1. The Kaunas City Local Court, the petitioner, impugns the compliance Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) with the Constitution on the basis of the same arguments as used to impugn the compliance of Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety with the Constitution.

3.1. It has been held in this Constitutional Court’s ruling that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010) of Article 25 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

It has also been held in this Constitutional Court’s ruling that Paragraph 4 of Article 25 (wording of 13 June 2013) of the Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it establishes that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles and/or their trailers designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in a foreign state, once they arrive in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, establishes that such a prohibition applies to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is in the Republic of Lithuania, is in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

3.2. Having held this, on the grounds of the same arguments, it should be held that Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), to the specified extent, was also in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

3.3. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

  1. It has been mentioned that, by Item 1.26 of the government resolution (No. 224) of 29 February 2012, Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008) was amended. It has also been mentioned that the legal regulation established in Item 240 (wording of 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules, if compared to that established in Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), remained unchanged from the aspect impugned by the petitioner.

4.1. It has been held in this Constitutional Court’s ruling that Item 240 of the Road Traffic Rules (wording of 16 July 2008), as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

4.2. Having held this, on the grounds of the same arguments, it should be held that Item 240 (wording of 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules, to the specified extent, was also in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

4.3. In the light of the foregoing arguments, the conclusion should be drawn that Item 240 (wording of 29 February 2012) of the Road Traffic Rules, as approved by the Government Resolution (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

IV

  1. It should be noted that, in its judgment of 20 March 2014 in the case (C-61/12) European Commission / the Republic of Lithuania, the Court of Justice of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as the Court of Justice) held that, by prohibiting the registration of passenger vehicles that have their steering wheel on the right-hand side, and/or by requiring, for the purpose of registering passenger vehicles with the steering equipment on the right-hand side, whether they are new or previously registered in other Member States, that the steering wheel be moved to the left-hand side, the Republic of Lithuania failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 2a of Council Directive 70/311/EEC of 8 June 1970 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the steering equipment for motor vehicles and their trailers, also under Article 4(3) of Directive 2007/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 September 2007 establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (the Framework Directive), as well as under Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as the TFEU).

It should also be noted that the Court of Justice was considering the aforementioned case regarding the prohibition on the registration of passenger vehicles that have their steering wheel on the right-hand side in the Republic of Lithuania, as well as regarding the requirement that the steering equipment of passenger vehicles with the steering wheel on the right-hand side be moved to the left-hand side for the purpose of registering these vehicles. Thus, in that case considered by the Court of Justice, the prohibition on registering in the Republic of Lithuania vehicles that have their steering wheel on the right-hand side was assessed from the aspects other than those under investigation in the constitutional justice case at issue.

1.1. The Court of Justice concluded that the position of the driver’s seat, an integral part of the steering equipment of a vehicle, comes within the harmonisation established by Directives 2007/46 and 70/311, so that the Member States may not require, for reasons of safety, with a view to the registration of a new vehicle in their territory, the driver’s seat of that vehicle to be moved to the side opposite to the direction of the traffic (Paragraph 52).

1.2. The Court of Justice also noted that, in view of the Court’s settled case law, the contested legislation (inter alia, the Law on Road Traffic Safety) constitutes a measure having equivalent effect to quantitative restrictions on imports within the meaning of Article 34 of the TFEU, in so far as its effect is to hinder access to the Lithuanian market for vehicles with the position of the driver’s seat on the right, which are lawfully constructed and registered in Member States other than the Republic of Lithuania (Paragraph 57). In accordance with that case law, such legislation may be justified in order to meet imperative requirements, on condition that it is appropriate for securing the attainment of the objective pursued and that it does not go beyond what is necessary in order to attain that objective (Paragraph 58).

The Court of Justice also pointed out that, with regard to driving vehicles with their steering wheel on the right-hand side on public roads in the Lithuanian territory, it should be noted, first of all, that the risk arising from the use of these vehicles in the Lithuanian territory is the same whether those vehicles are new or previously registered in another Member State (Paragraph 64). The Court of Justice emphasised that there exist means and measures less restrictive of the free movement of goods than the measure at issue and, at the same time, capable of significantly reducing the risk that could be created by the use of vehicles with the steering wheel situated on the same side as the direction of the traffic. The Member States enjoy in that regard discretion for the purpose of imposing measures, including those proposed by the Commission, that would be capable, according to the state of technology, of ensuring sufficient rear and forward visibility for the driver of a vehicle with the steering wheel situated on the same side as the direction of the traffic (Paragraph 68). Therefore, the Court of Justice did not find that the measure at issue could be considered to be necessary in order to attain the objective pursued; and, in the light of those considerations, the measure at issue was declared not compatible with the principle of proportionality (Paragraph 69).

  1. It should be noted that, under Paragraph 1 of Article 260 of the TFEU, if the Court of Justice of the European Union finds that a Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties, the State is required to take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment of the Court of Justice.

Conforming to Articles 102 and 105 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 1, 53, 531, 54, 55, and 56 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania gives the following

ruling:

  1. To recognise that Paragraph 4 (wording of 15 April 2010, Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2010, No. 48-2308; wording of 13 June 2013, Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2013, No. 68-3401) of Article 25 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Road Traffic Safety, insofar as it establishes (established) that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right does (did) not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is (was) in a foreign state, once they arrive (arrived) in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, establishes (established) that such a prohibition applies (applied) to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence is (was) in the Republic of Lithuania, is (was) in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.
  2. To recognise that Item 240 (wording of 16 July 2008, Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2008, No. 88-3530; wording of 29 February 2012, Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2012, No. 29-1302) of the Road Traffic Rules, as approved by the Resolution of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (No. 1950) “On the Approval of the Road Traffic Rules” of 11 December 2002, insofar as it established that the prohibition on driving, on public roads, motor vehicles designed to be driven on the left-hand side of the road and/or equipped with the steering wheel on the right did not apply to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in a foreign state, once they arrived in the Republic of Lithuania on a temporary basis (up to 90 days per year) in vehicles registered abroad, and, at the same time, established that such a prohibition applied to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania whose permanent place of residence was in the Republic of Lithuania, was in conflict with Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

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

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                                  Elvyra Baltutytė

                                                                                                           Vytautas Greičius

                                                                                                           Danutė Jočienė

                                                                                                           Pranas Kuconis

                                                                                                           Gediminas Mesonis

                                                                                                           Vytas Milius

                                                                                                           Egidijus Šileikis

                                                                                                           Algirdas Taminskas

                                                                                                           Dainius Žalimas