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On the restoration of the ownership rights of citizens to land

Case No. 20/94-21/94

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 R U L I N G

 On the compliance of Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, as well as Item 23 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 7 of Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform has been set forth anew, with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania

 8 March 1995, Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Algirdas Gailiūnas, Kęstutis Lapinskas, Zigmas Levickis, Vladas Pavilonis, Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius, Stasys Stačiokas, Teodora Staugaitienė, Stasys Šedbaras and Juozas Žilys

The court reporter—Rolanda Stimbirytė

Seimas member Andrius Kubilius and Seimas member Vaclovas Lapė, acting as the representatives of a group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner

Seimas member Mykolas Pronskus and Algirdas Taminskas, acting as the representatives of the Seimas, the party concerned

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, pursuant to Paragraph 1 of Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Paragraph 1 of Article 1 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in its public hearing of 7–8 February 1995, considered case No. 20/94-21/94 subsequent to the petition submitted to the Court by the Anykščiai District Local Court requesting an investigation into the compliance of Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, as well as Item 23 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 7 of Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform has been set forth anew, with the Constitution, along with the petition submitted to the Court by a group of the Seimas members requesting an investigation into whether Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, is in compliance with the Constitution.

The petitions of the group of the Seimas members and the Anykščiai District Local Court have been conjoined into one case by the decision of the Constitutional Court of 15 September 1994.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

I

On 15 June 1994, the Anykščiai District Local Court, the petitioner, considered the civil case upon the action brought in by the plaintiffs P. Baltranas, I. Baltranaitė and B. Mikėnienė against the Anykščiai District Local Board, the respondent, pertaining to the restoration of the plot of land. The Court has passed the ruling to suspend the consideration of the civil case and has appealed to the Constitutional Court requesting an investigation into whether Item 8 of the Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’”, 15 July 1993 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1993, No. 32-725), by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, as well as Item 23 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform”, 15 July 1993 (Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 1993, No. 32-727), by which Item 7 of Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform has been set forth anew, are in compliance with the Constitution.

The petitioner points out in the request that it is established in Article 23 of the Constitution that property shall be inviolable, it may only be seized for the needs of society according to the procedure established by law and must be adequately compensated for.

It is established in Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the amended and supplemented Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” of 15 July 1993 that the State shall purchase the land allotted for private holdings of residents.

It is pointed out in Item 7 of Article 16 of the Law on Land Reform that the users of personal plots of land may acquire it for private ownership (15 July 1993 wording of the Law ). Thus, the land, purchased from former landowners and allotted for private holdings of residents, later on may be sold to users not taking into consideration the interests of former landowners. Besides, when the State purchases the land beforehand for the purpose to privatise it later, the needs of the residents, who privatise it, are satisfied, and not the needs of society. The petitioner doubts whether the State, not being the landowner, has the right to regulate the land market at its discretion and whether it, thus, does not violate the right of former landowners to recover the land.

Due to the aforementioned arguments, the Anykščiai District Local Court believes that Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” (15 July 1993 wording of the Law ) and Item 7 of Article 16 of the Law on Land Reform (15 July 1993 wording of the Law) contradict Article 23 of the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court, taking into consideration the arguments of the ruling of the Anykščiai District Local Court, specified by its 19 July 1994 decision that the petition of the Court is on the compliance of the provision “land allotted for private holdings of residents” in Paragraph 1 of Item 3 of Article 12, titled “The State Purchase of Land” of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” and of Item 7 of Article 16 of the Law on Land Reform, with the Constitution.

In the process of preparation of the case for the hearing of the Constitutional Court, the judge of the Anykščiai District Local Court has pointed out additionally that landowners will receive compensations only in the future. Other persons will be allowed to privatise their land, and that is not in conformity with the conception of the needs of society. Land, acquired for the needs of society, should be State-owned and only allotted to residents for utilising, or leased to them.

II

A group of the Seimas members, the petitioner, has requested an investigation into whether Item 8 of the Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, is in compliance with the Constitution.

It is pointed out in the request that at present part 3 of Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the amended and supplemented Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” of 15 July 1993 provides: “Land required for State needs as well as other land shall be purchased from the persons defined in Article 2 of this Law in the manner specified in Article 16 of this Law if:

3) <...> land is allotted for personal land holdings of residents or designated for the needs of personal plots according to land reform land exploitation projects that were considered at the boards of districts until 31 December 1993, or allotted and marked out in the locality until the said date. Up to a 3-hectare area of agricultural land for the restoration of land in kind may be left to the persons residing in individual farmsteads located in these territories, provided the residents, having land plots allotted for their personal holdings, agree to use land for their personal holding in other place”.

In the process of preparation of the case for the hearing of the Constitutional Court, the group of the Seimas members specified the request by pointing out that the mentioned in the petition part 3 of Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the impugned Law has to be understood as the provision of Item 3 of Article 12: “Land required for State needs as well as other land shall be purchased from the persons defined in Article 2 of this Law in the manner specified in Article 16 of this Law if:

3) <...> land is allotted for personal land holdings of residents or designated for the needs of personal plots according to land reform land exploitation projects that were considered at the boards of districts until 31 December 1993, or allotted and marked out in the locality until the said date. Up to a 3-hectare area of agricultural land for the restoration of land in kind may be left to the persons residing in individual farmsteads located in these territories, provided the residents, having land plots allotted for their personal holdings, agree to use land in other place”.

The petitioner points out in the request and his representatives have explained during the process of the court hearing that land is being allotted and sold without preparing and confirming according to the established order the projects of land reform, without taking into consideration if a plot of land is private or State-owned. Despite of existing carrying on of the rights to ownership, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania has adopted the resolutions legalising State sale of private land. The request is grounded on the statements of the Constitutional Court rulings passed 27 May 1994 and 15 June of the same year that the occupational power unlawfully deprived owners of their property. The rights of such owners are defended by Article 23 of the Constitution. Ownership is regarded as the most important innate human right. It is established in the Constitution that no person shall be wilfully deprived of ownership by anybody. It may be seized only for the needs of society and only according to the procedure established by law.

The petitioner’s representatives affirm that recently land of owners is being allotted and sold to other persons without concluding contracts on that land purchase or compensation for it. The principle of the equality of citizens is evidently violated by such actions. The Constitutional Court in the said rulings does not regard the lease of land and its use for private holdings as public needs due to which land may be purchased and not restored to its rightful owner. His right to recover ownership is made dependent on subjective will of a private land plot user. Seizing private land from landowners and giving it over (selling) to other persons do not mean the satisfying of the needs of society. Land may only be taken into State stock of land and not given over to other persons. Furthermore, land plots are being split into non-perspective land holdings that will not be able to function autonomously. The boards of districts become institutions solving questions of ownership, i.e. they limit the rights of former owners to recover their land in kind. The analogical rights of the Ministry of Forestry of the Republic of Lithuania have been acknowledged unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

In the opinion of the petitioner’s representatives, persons, using land for their private holdings, are only its leaseholders. While owners will recover their land or it will be purchased, the State must guarantee private land lease and its conditions for the users.

The amendments to the impugned Law, adopted 15 July 1993, restrict the process of limited restitution. Due to such alternation of restitution conditions, the changing of the impugned Law is also vicious, as the principle of the equality of citizens is violated by it. In the implementation of land reform, in the opinion of the petitioner, the priority should be given to land restitution or its compensation, and only after that—to land privatisation.

In the opinion of the petitioner and his representatives, these provisions contradict Article 23 of the Constitution and first of all they contradict the regulation of this Article that “property may be seized for the needs of society only according to the procedure established by law and must be adequately compensated for.”

III

In the process of the preparation of the case for the hearing of the Court and during the court hearing, the representatives of the party concerned explained that on 15 July 1993 the Seimas, taking into consideration concurrence of circumstances, amended and supplemented the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” and the Law on Land Reform. While amending and supplementing the said Laws, land relations formed during past 50 years and of late years, as well as legal acts adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania were taken into consideration. It was also taken into account that the Supreme Council, after adoption of relevant legal documents, announced partial land restitution which was taking place together with land reform.

The representatives of the party concerned state that the Supreme Council, acknowledging the carrying on of ownership, actually has also ascertained by 15 November 1990 statements that the situations, when it is unrealisable to restore in kind all the existing property, are possible. In such a case the possibility of getting compensation was provided for. The Constitutional Court has stated that the provision that in case it is unrealisable to restore the property in kind, the compensation must be allotted, shall not contradict the principles of property inviolability and protection of the rights to ownership.

In the opinion of the representatives of the party concerned, land of personal holdings is purchased for the public needs. Recently, users of personal holdings are very important producers of agricultural products. According to the data of Department of Statistics of the Republic of Lithuania, in 1993 different landowners of land plots for private use produced almost half of agricultural production, therefore, the job of this group of people is very significant for society. Furthermore, while privatising lands, used for private holdings, more rapidly, real owners of these plots would be legalised, strata of landowners would arise, they would be able to expand co-operation and would use their land better.

The representatives of the party concerned have submitted the samples of the principles of land reform being implemented in pre-war period. The representatives state that it was characteristic of this reform that land was taken from those who did not till it and given to those who did, and the payment for the alienated land was made in 36 years’ pledge securities that were being issued under the State treasury guarantee and were accepted as bails by State institutions. The State of Lithuania attempted to implement the reform after evaluating its real possibilities and as effectively as possible. Now land is being privatised without purchasing it from former owners because partial restitution is being implemented together with land reform and such a process satisfies the needs of society. The formation of personal plots of land is inseparable from land reform process which is being implemented.

Land taken for the public needs may also belong to private persons, not only to the State or a municipality. It is not significant whose ownership the property will be transmitted to, but how the needs of society will be satisfied by using this ownership. Land is being purchased and has been established by government resolution No. 676 of 24 July 1994 that money shall be primarily paid to those former owners whose land is in the location provided for personal plots of land.

In the estimation of the representatives of the party concerned, the adoption of the amendments of the said Laws has been the right action in social as well as in economic and juridical aspects and they do not contradict the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

  1. After restoration of the independent State of Lithuania on 11 March 1990, the institution of the right to private ownership was also restored by constitutional acts. Soon lawful preconditions for restoration and further development of agricultural system grounded on the right to private ownership were begun to create.

During the period of the Soviet occupation, the economic system, based on State, kolkhoz-co-operative ownership and administrative-commanding managing resulting from that, was forced upon Lithuania. Returning to the market system of economic relations was impossible without economic reform, of which the agrarian reform is a constituent. Such a provision has been set forth in the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Draft of General Principles of Agrarian Reform” of 3 July 1990, which was submitted to the public for consideration.

It has been maintained in clause 1 of Chapter II of the said project of general principles of agrarian reform that “the goal of land reform is to actualise the right of Lithuanian citizens to land ownership, to guarantee rational use of land”. It has already been formulated in the provision that restoration of the ownership rights to land is not the only goal of agrarian reform since rational use of land must be guaranteed at the same time. The restoration of land to former owners, provided for in clause 2 of Chapter II, is linked with use of land for its proper purpose. Later this principle has been consolidated in Article 4 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property”, establishing the conditions and procedure of the restoration of the rights of ownership to land designated for agricultural purposes. The provision to conform inseparable process of the restoration of the rights of ownership to land to the process of land reform has been determined by the fact that both processes find manifestation in their common object—land.

It has been established in the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1990 that up to 3-hectare plots of land per one family shall be allotted for personal holdings to employees of agricultural enterprises and pensioners, if they wish, residing in rural localities. Up to 2-hectare plots of land per one family shall be allotted for personal holdings to other people residing and working in a rural locality.

Pursuant to the resolution of the Supreme Council, adopted 26 July 1990, personal holdings were allotted not for ownership but for termless utilisation. It was also being striven by the resolution (Item 3) for practical transition to agriculture grounded on free farming and to formation of strata of persons interested in the market.

Agrarian reform was started to implement not only by allotting land to people residing and working in rural localities, but also by permitting the acquisition of property needed for agriculture. It was performed pursuant to the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Privatisation of Property of Agricultural Enterprises, 30 July 1991. In accordance with its Article 3, the persons that were allotted to up to 2- or 3-hectare plots of land, were also allowed to acquire the property of the agricultural enterprise being privatised.

In addition to the goal to create more favourable conditions for expanding personal holdings of rural residents, another goal has been pointed out in the preamble of the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1990—in state accounting to register land actually used for that purpose. Conforming to this resolution, the Government, by its Resolution “On the Procedure for the Allotment and Official Registration of Land for Personal Holdings” of 11 October 1990, established that up to 2 or 3 hectares of land were allotted “taking into consideration interests of agricultural and other enterprises and of the claimant to personal holding” (Item 2 of the resolution). According to the government resolution, persons wishing to acquire land had to apply in written form to the management of an agricultural or other enterprise, to point out the total area of the desired to acquire plot of land and separately the area of farming lands, as well as a part of the plot, wished to be acquired in common arable land-mass or in grouped pastures. Private land-tenures were virtually formed according to that, how rural residents actually utilised land. It was not demanded in the said resolutions to take into consideration interests of the former landowner while allotting to utilise his land, though at that time the institution of private ownership, according to the Provisional Basic Law, had already been returned to the legal system of the country.

The purpose of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” is to regulate the procedure and conditions of the restoration of the citizen’s rights of ownership to existing real property, along with to land. The restoration of the rights to land has actually meant the process of agrarian reform.

The goals of land reform are formulated in the Law on Land Reform. Article 2 of the said law provides: “The goals of land reform are to implement the right of Lithuanian citizens to land ownership by returning the expropriated land and by purchasing it in accordance with the procedure and terms established by law; to create legal, organisational and economic preconditions for expansion of agricultural production by freely choosing forms of farming”. Thus, the restoration of the rights of ownership and land reform are inseparable processes. The restoration of the rights to land was the basic means for implementing land reform.

The purpose of law acts, adopted by the Supreme Council as well as of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” is to return land to its owners, conforming that to the utilisation of land according to its proper purpose. Provided it is impossible to restore the land, the rights of ownership are to be restored in other ways—it must be purchased. One of the cases of the purchasing of land by the State has been set forth in Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law. It has been established in it that land required for the needs of the State, as well as other land shall be purchased from the persons defined in Article 2 of this Law in the manner specified in Article 16 of this law if: “3) it is in a rural area, has been allotted to a farmer under the enforced laws, and is occupied by a personal plot, house or other structures to which the farmer has the right of ownership” (18 June 1991 wording of the Law).

It has been established in Item 7 of the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Procedure for the Implementation and Application of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 16 July 1991 that land, allotted in accordance with the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1990, shall also be categorised as belonging to the land occupied by personal plots and specified in Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law. Thus, the legislature, since the very beginning of the legal regulation governing the restoration of the rights of ownership, has already provided for the condition that the land allotted for personal holdings is purchased by the State from the former owners. While supplementing Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” on 7 May 1992, the norm of the Law, regarding legal status of occupied personal plots, has not been changed.

Article 4 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property”, titled “Conditions and Procedures for the Restoration of the Right of Ownership to Land Used for Agricultural Purposes”, on 7 May 1992 was supplemented with Paragraph 9: “up to 3-hectare plots of land shall be restored, in kind or in equivalent kind, for ownership to the persons, defined in Article 2 of this Law, in the areas of not being privatised land that adjoin private farmsteads and rural settlements and are designated for personal holdings” (this norm of the Law was voided pursuant to Item 3 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993). The size of the plot of the land that had to be restored was limited by the said norm, since land, allotted to other persons for private holdings, as well as formed land-tenures were taken into consideration. Legal preconditions for utilisation of the personal plot of land was also created by this Law.

The regulative role of law is greatly dependent upon the intensity of social life. The more complicated social relations of people, the larger need to regulate these relations, i.e. to adopt legal acts that would create preconditions for reconciling conflicts of social interests. In such way, fortuities and arbitrariness, instability of social life and clashes of interests are avoided. One of the main objectives of law as a means of regulation of social life is justice. It is impossible to attain justice by satisfying interests of only one group or one person and by denying interests of others. While behaving one-sidedly, the humane purpose of law would be disregarded and the probability of social conflicts would increase. Law cannot be based only on interests of majority or minority, therefore, the co-ordination of interests by using optimum possibilities of agreement between parties is strived for in law-making. This principle of law-making is particularly important when the questions of a person’s natural rights in general and separately—the implementation of rights of ownership, protection of rights to ownership—are being solved.

Conflict of interests is reflected in this case: on the one hand, persons striving to restore the right of ownership to land, and on the other hand, persons who, pursuant to the legal acts of the State of Lithuania, are already using concrete area of land as the land of their personal plot and who want to utilise it further, including as well the possibility of privatising it. It is possible to reconcile this conflict only on the basis of law after having estimated the real economic situation, as well as the psychological condition of society and size of socialisation of this problem.

In Articles 47 and 54 of the Constitution land is treated as a universal value having a social function—to serve the welfare of the nation. It is not the same for society how land shall be used since it is the general need to preserve rational utilisation of land according to its proper purpose. Thus, on striving for the co-ordination of interests of former owners and users of land of personal plots, the right of the State to regulate conditions of the restoration of the rights of ownership to land is an unavoidable necessity.

After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, farming in this country was collective and private, i.e. persons who had acquired up to 2 or 3 hectares of land were also engaged in farming. The status of the said persons was the same as that of small farmers. Since the very beginning of land allotment, the stability of the rights to the usage of that land has been guaranteed to them.

Until the adoption of the restoration of property or the decision concerning appropriate compensation, the subjective rights of a former owner to concrete property have not been restored, yet. A law, until it is not applied to concrete subject for the restoration of concrete property, does not initiate subjective rights of its own accord. In such a situation, the decision of the institution empowered by the State to restore the property in kind or to compensate it shall have such juridical significance that since that moment the former owner shall acquire the rights of ownership to such property (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 27 May 1994).

The legislature, after establishing the procedure and conditions of the restoration of the rights of ownership, has emphasised the priority of former owners to recover land in kind. In case, however, due to concurrence of factual land-tenure relations that have been estimated as the social need while implementing land reform, it is impossible to restore land in kind, it may be purchased from the former landowner.

The notion “the purchasing”, used in Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property”, actually means the right of the institutions empowered by the State to make the decision not to restore the existing land to its former owners in case there are appropriate conditions established by law. Pursuant to Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of this Law, land, allotted for personal plots of residents, shall be purchased from former owners by applying the methods established in Article 16 of the said Law. Former landowners have the right, in accordance with the procedure established by law, to choose the method of reimbursement established by this Law, as well as, in the event of disagreement concerning it or justice of compensation, they may defend their interests in court. In its ruling of 27 May 1994, the Constitutional Court has noted that the provision that in case it is impossible to restore the property in kind, reimbursement has to be granted, shall not contradict principles of inviolability of ownership and protection of the rights of ownership, as rightful compensation shall also guarantee the restoration of the rights of ownership.

While solving the problem of the restoration of land to former owners, the formed system of socio-economic relations and, in particular, the actual land-tenure, are inevitably confronted. Due to this, it shall be impossible to disregard the right of the State to regulate the conditions of the restoration of the rights of ownership so that the interests of the former owners and of the present users of their land, allotted for personal plots, would be co-ordinated as much as possible. In establishing the purchasing of the land of which up to 2 or 3 hectares have been allotted of for personal plots, as well as its reimbursement, the activity of the State is grounded not only on the co-ordination of social interests but also on such regulation of economic activity that it would serve the general welfare of the nation (Article 46 of the Constitution).

In estimation of this problem, legal traditions of the State of Lithuania must be taken into consideration. It has been noted in all constitutions of the State of Lithuania that property, and especially land, has social function as well. By land reforms it has also been striving for that land would be allotted to those persons who till it, though historically they have never had any rights of ownership to it.

Pursuant to the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1996, almost all persons, residing in rural settlements, utilise plots allotted for personal holdings. Without the purchase of land from former owners, it would be impossible to provide with land persons who utilise and till it, and this would prevent from implementing land reform.

The State must use such purchased land properly—to sell it to its users or, in case the users do not announce the desire to acquire it for private ownership, to guarantee them termless utilisation of the allotted land. Taking into consideration of what has been said above, the Constitutional Court comes to the conclusion that Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which the norm—“land allotted for personal plots of residents” shall be purchased—of Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, as well as Item 23 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania on Land Reform” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 7 of Article 16 of the Law on Land Reform has been set forth anew , do not contradict the Constitution.

  1. Pursuant to Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property”, land, “designated for the needs of personal plots of residents according to land reform land exploitation projects that were considered at the boards of districts until 31 December 1993, or allotted and marked out in the locality until the said date”, shall also be purchased. While investigating this norm it should be noted that in accordance with the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1990, the allotment of land for personal plots of residents has been cancelled (Item 2 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On the Republic of Lithuania’s Some Legal Acts on Land Questions, which, after the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land has been Enforced, shall be Voided” of 12 July 1994 ). Thus, the formation of factual land-tenure of personal plots is finished.

The purchase of the land allotted for personal plots has to depend only on the land-tenure that has been formed while implementing land reform and on that situation, which arose after allotting plots of land to personal holdings of residents in accordance with the resolution of the Supreme Council of 26 July 1990. This land may be purchased from former owners only provided that rightful users of these present plots exist. The provision, “land, designated for the needs of personal plots of residents, shall be purchased”, may not be elucidated as the purchase of land that has not be allotted in accordance with the resolution of the Supreme Council of 26 July 1990. Otherwise, the established principles of the defending of the rights of ownership in Article 23 of the Constitution would be violated.

  1. In Item 8 of the Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Republic of Lithuania’s Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 has been set forth anew, there is the norm: “Up to 3-hectare area of agricultural land for the restoration of land in kind may be left to the persons residing in individual farmsteads located in these territories, provided the residents, having land plots allotted for their personal holding, agree to use land in other place”. Pursuant to the Supreme Council Resolution “On the Expansion of Personal Plots Belonging to Rural Residents” of 26 July 1990, the former landowners residing in private farmsteads shall also have the right, together with other persons, to plots of land of up to 2 or 3 hectares. The right of such an owner to restore the right of ownership by recovering the plot of land of the said size may not be restricted, while interests and will of other persons, who utilise the land, must be taken into consideration. Otherwise, the former owner becomes dependent on subjective will of other land users. The rights of former owners, residing in private farmsteads, are limited by this norm, in comparison with other land users. Such limitation on the rights of ownership of former owners contradicts Article 23 and Article 29 of the Constitution.
  2. It is established in Article 120 of the Constitution that “Municipalities act freely and independently in accordance with the competence determined by the Constitution and laws”. Pursuant to this norm, the Seimas may commission, by law, municipalities or government bodies formed by them in an administrative-territorial unit with the performing of concrete functions so that this would not contradict the Constitution. The impugned empowering, conceded to municipalities for performing some legal actions while implementing land reform, among them—consideration of projects of land exploitation, may not be evaluated as contradicting the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court states that while investigating the case it has turned out that in enforcing the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” and the Law on Land Reform, the interests of citizens, grounded on constitutional rights and freedoms, are violated. Municipalities and their appropriate services, while preparing and considering projects of land reform land exploitation, must reconcile the interests of different people, i.e. must use the optimum possibilities of agreement. This is also required in the provision of the Preamble to the Constitution that the Lithuanian nation strives for “an open, just and harmonious civil society and State under the rule of law”.

Paragraph 2 of Article 6 of the Constitution prescribes: “Every person may defend his or her rights on the basis of the Constitution”. It is maintained in Paragraph 1 of Article 30 of the Constitution that: “Any person whose constitutional rights and freedoms are violated shall have the right to appeal to court”. These provisions on the defence of rights and freedoms of citizens in court are still supplemented by the norm of Article 124 of the Constitution: “Deeds and actions of municipal councils as well as their executive bodies and officials which violate the rights of citizens and organisations may be appealed against in court”. The Constitution is an integral and directly applied act, therefore, any decisions made by municipalities or their officials, while implementing land reform in accordance with the procedure accepted by law, may be appealed against in court.

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

ruling:

  1. To recognise that the norm, establishing that “land required for State needs as well as other land shall be purchased from persons, defined in Article 2 of this law, in the manner specified in Article 16 of this Law, if: <...> land allotted for private plots of residents”, of Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, and Item 23 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 7 of Article 16 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Land Reform has been set forth anew, do not contradict the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
  2. To recognise that the norm, establishing that “up to 3-hectare area of agricultural land for the restoration of land in kind may be left to the persons residing in individual farmsteads located in these territories, provided the residents, having land plots allotted for their personal holding, agree to use land in other place”, of Item 8 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law “On Supplementing and Amending the Law ‘On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property’” of 15 July 1993, by which Item 3 of Paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Law “On the Procedure and Conditions of the Restoration of the Rights of Ownership of Citizens to the Existing Real Property” has been set forth anew, contradicts Articles 23 and 29 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

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

The ruling is pronounced in the name of the Republic of Lithuania.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:

 Algirdas Gailiūnas                           Kęstutis Lapinskas                           Zigmas Levickis

 Vladas Pavilonis                              Pranas Vytautas Rasimavičius         Stasys Stačiokas

 Teodora Staugaitienė                       Stasys Šedbaras                               Juozas Žilys