Titulinė skaidrė
Teismo sudėtis
Salė
Vytis
Lt
Lt

News

Content updated: 12-06-2019 13:43

The Law Amending the Law on Forestry declared unconstitutional: laws may be adopted under special urgency procedure only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases

16-04-2019

By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that the Law Amending Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 18, and 19 of the Law on Forestry (No I-671) (hereinafter also referred to as the Law Amending the Law on Forestry and the Law) is, in terms of its adoption, in conflict with Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 and Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

By this ruling, the Constitutional Court also recognised that Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas was in conflict with Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution establishing that the scope of power is limited by the Constitution and that state institutions serve the people, as well as with the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance , insofar as, under the established legal regulation, the consideration of draft laws and other legal acts of the Seimas could be subject to special urgency procedure not only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases when it was necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which required the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court noted that, when deliberating draft laws and other acts of the Seimas, the special urgency procedure could be applied only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it was necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state, for example, when imposing or upon imposition of martial law or a state of emergency, when announcing or upon the announcement of mobilisation, when adopting a decision to use the armed forces in the event of an armed attack and (or) when a need arised to fulfil the international obligations, due to natural disaster or under other extreme circumstances, in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which required the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature. A different legal regulation, under which the Seimas could deliberate draft laws and other acts of the Seimas under special urgency procedure not in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases would be incompatible with the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

Under the Constitution and the Law on the Constitutional Court, the Law Amending the Law on Forestry that was declared unconstitutional by this ruling of the Constitutional Court, may not be applied as from the day of the official publication of this ruling.

The Constitutional Court held that if it officially published this ruling right after its public pronouncement at the hearing of the Constitutional Court, there would appear regulatory gaps and uncertainties of the legal regulation established in the Law on Forestry due to which the management of forestry could be disrupted. In view of the fact that a certain time is necessary for the removal of gaps and uncertainties, the Constitutional Court decided to postpone the official publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court – it will be officially published in the Register of Legal Acts and will come into force on 02 December 2019.

However, as the Constitutional Court noted, already as from the public pronouncement of this ruling at the hearing of the Constitutional Court, the procedure of deliberation of laws and other acts of the Seimas as a matter of urgency or special urgency should be applied only in the ways complying with the Constitution.

Factual circumstances linked to the adoption of the impugned Law

In the constitutional justice case at issue, the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, impugned the compliance of the Law Amending the Law on Forestry with the Constitution in terms of the procedure of its adoption.

The Constitutional Court established the factual circumstances significant for this case that are linked to the submission of two draft laws amending the Law on Forestry to the Seimas and their deliberation at the Seimas.

On 15 April 2016, the draft Law (No XIIP-4291) submitted by the group of members of the Seimas was registered at the Seimas, whereby it was proposed to amend Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Law on Forestry so that instead of a concrete number of forest enterprises (42 forest enterprises), it would be established that forest enterprises operate in the Republic of Lithuania.

On 10 March 2017 the draft Law (No XIIIP-420) amending Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 18, and 19 of the Law on Forestry (No I-671) submitted by the Government was registered at the Seimas with a request to deliberate it under urgency procedure. In the draft law, among other things, there was a proposal to establish one state enterprise “Lithuanian State Forests” instead of 42 forest enterprises operating in Lithuania.

Following the submission of the draft Law (No XIIP-4291) by the group of members of the Seimas, at the sitting of the Seimas on 16 March 2017, the Seimas returned the draft Law to the initiators for improvement. On the same day, following the submission, the Seimas approved the draft Law (No XIIIP-420) submitted by the Government and initiated its deliberation procedure, but it did not approve the proposal of the Government to deliberate this draft under urgency procedure. At the sitting of 16 March 2017, both drafts laws were not submitted as alternative, they were deliberated as separate issues on the agenda of the Seimas.

The amended draft Law of the group of members of the Seimas was registered wat the Seimas on 27 June 2017; the Seimas approved it after its submission on 4 July 2017 and initiated the deliberation procedure.

The Committee on Environment Protection, which had been appointed by the Seimas as the lead committee for the deliberation of both draft laws (both submitted by the group of members of the Seimas and by the Government), deliberated both draft laws on 07 July of the same year; however, they were not considered as alternative and no decision was adopted to join them. The committee approved the draft of the group of members of the Seimas, but it rejected the draft submitted by the Government without any arguments and without having assessed the two conclusions of the independent expert evaluation concerning this draft law that had been presented, as well as the conclusions, comments, and proposals presented by other consultants, specialists, also subjects having the right of legislative initiative, additional committees designated by the Seimas, and the state and municipal institutions and establishments.

At the morning sitting on 11 July 2017, when deliberating the draft Law submitted by the Seimas and approved by the Committee on Environment Protection, the Seimas amended it substantially – the draft Law was supplemented by new provisions which had not been approved by the Committee on Environment and the most of which were identical to the provisions of the draft Law submitted by the Government, which had been rejected by the said committee. On the same day, upon the proposal of the Speaker of the Seimas (without presenting the reasons for such a proposal), the Seimas adopted this draft Law under special urgency procedure.

The Legal Department of the Office of the Seimas did not assess the proposals submitted by the members of the Seimas, as well as the provisions of the draft Law, by means of which it was supplemented and amended substantially, during the break made while deliberating the draft Law under special urgency procedure.

The provisions of the Constitution and the official constitutional doctrine

In the constitutional justice case at issue, the group of members of the Seimas, the petitioner, impugned the compliance of the Law, in terms of the procedure of its adoption, with Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Constitution, according to which laws are adopted at the Seimas according to the procedure established by law, and with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

In describing the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, the Constitutional Court noted that this principle implies various requirements for law-making subjects, inter alia, that legal acts must be passed in accordance with the established procedural law-making requirements, including the requirements established by the law-making subject itself. The legal regulation laid down in laws and other legal acts must be clear, comprehensible, and coherent; the consistency and internal harmony of the legal system must be ensured; in order that the subjects of legal relations could act in accordance with the requirements of law, a legal regulation must be relatively stable.

The constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law is also reflected in Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution consolidating the constitutional principles of responsible governance and the responsibility of state authorities to the public, which provide that the scope of power is limited by the Constitution and that state institutions serve the people. The Constitutional Court noted that the principle of responsible governance, as consolidated in the Constitution, implies that all state institutions and officials are obliged to follow the Constitution and the law while performing their functions, must properly implement the powers granted to them by the Constitution and laws by acting in the interests of the Nation and the State of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court recalled that the constitutional principle of responsible governance, when interpreted in conjunction with the imperative obliging state institutions to serve the people, as consolidated in Paragraph 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution, implies the publicity and transparency requirements of law-making procedures which must be followed, inter alia, by institutions that exercise state power. Compliance with these requirements is an essential condition for public trust in the state and law, as well as for the responsibility of state authorities to the public; this compliance creates the preconditions for involving the public in the decision-making process related to public interests, while providing the opportunity to become familiar with the drafted legislation and other relevant information and, thus, to implement the rights, guaranteed to citizens under Article 3 of the Constitution, to participate in the governance of the state, to criticise the work of state institutions or their officials, and to appeal against their decisions.

When revealing the constitutional grounds of legislative process, the Constitutional Court first of all noted that, under the Constitution, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof, and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance, while implementing the obligations to regulate legislative procedure consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 69 and Article 76 of the Constitution, the Seimas must establish, in the Statute of the Seimas and laws, such a legal regulation governing the legislative process that would ensure, among other things, the publicity and transparency of this process and would create preconditions for ensuring the quality of laws and other acts of the Seimas.

The Constitutional Court recalled that the following stages of the legislative process exist: the realisation of the right of legislative initiative, the deliberation of a draft law, the adoption of a draft law.

While describing the stage of deliberation of draft laws relevant to the case, the Constitutional Court emphasised that, as it had already stated, the stage of deliberation of draft laws was a necessary stage of legislative process, which guarantees the application of the principles of democracy in legislative process.

The Constitutional Court noted that this stage was particularly important for the implementation of the requirements of publicity and transparency of legislative process and the quality of the adopted laws stemming from the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance. The purpose of the stage of deliberation of legislative process is to analyse in detail and to assess, at this stage, draft laws submitted to the Seimas and any information concerning them significant for the members of the Seimas when they decide on the adoption of relevant laws, among other things, to assess the opinions of the groups of society, the parties concerned, other state or municipal institutions, and persons with specialist knowledge.

With regard to the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the adopted laws, which stem from the Constitution, the Statute of the Seimas must establish the structural units of the Seimas (among other things, committees and commissions of the Seimas) which would be entrusted to consider and assess the received comments and proposals concerning the draft laws under deliberation, as well as it must establish internal preventive legal instruments of the Seimas enabling to seek that the laws and other legal acts adopted by it would not be in conflict with the Constitution and would meet the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court noted that the legislative process, especially the stage of the deliberation of draft laws, must be regulated so that the preconditions would be created, when deliberating draft laws, to properly assess the content and consequences of the legal regulation provided for in these draft laws. To achieve this objective, the legal regulation governing the legislative process must create preconditions to receive, where necessary, among other things, the opinion from persons with specialist knowledge and relevant state institutions, which would be substantiated by the performed comprehensive, objective, and impartial assessment of the draft law under deliberation and the possible content and consequences of the future legal regulation, as well as to make a responsible and informed assessment of this opinion.

When describing the constitutional requirement of publicity and transparency of the legislative process, the Constitutional Court noted that, under the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance, in order to ensure the publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the said rights of citizens consolidated in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 33 of the Constitution, this process, especially the stage of the deliberation of draft laws, must be regulated so that it would create the possibility for society to participate in deliberations of draft laws. In order to reach this objective, such a legal regulation of the legislative process must be established, under which the draft laws submitted to the Seimas would be made public so that the groups of society and the parties concerned would have enough time to access them and to express their opinion, comments, and proposals concerning these draft laws, which would be assessed in a responsible and informed manner.

The Constitutional Court emphasised that the duty of the Seimas to comply with the rules concerning the stages of the legislative process and the adoption of laws, which are established in the Constitution, laws, or the Statute of the Seimas, is not an end in itself; this duty is aimed at ensuring compliance not only with the requirement to adopt laws in the Seimas by following the procedure established by means of a law, which is prescribed in Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Constitution, but also with the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process, as well as the quality requirements for the acts of the Seimas, which stem from Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court revealed the requirements for the legislative process of laws and other acts of the Seimas, when deliberating them under urgency or special urgency procedure. The Constitutional Court noted that the urgency procedure implied shortening the stages of the legislative process, especially the stage of deliberation; thus, it limited the possibilities of ensuring that the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process, as well as the quality requirements for laws, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof, and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance, be fulfilled.

In the light of the above, the Constitutional Court noted that, while regulating, under Paragraph 1 of Article 69 and Article 76 of the Constitution, the legislative procedure, the Seimas may establish such a legal regulation governing the deliberation of draft laws under urgency procedure, according to which, this urgency procedure would be applied in particular cases when the political, social, economic or other circumstances require to establish, as a matter of urgency, a new legal regulation or to amend the effective legal regulation in order to ensure important interests of society and the state and to protect other constitutional values.

The Constitutional Court also noted that the Statute of the Seimas may also provide for the procedure of deliberation of laws and other acts of the Seimas under special urgency procedure. This procedure implies that the stages of the legislative process, especially the stage of deliberation, may be shortened even more than while deliberating draft laws and other acts of the Seimas under urgency procedure, i.e. the stage of deliberation, which guarantees the application of democratic principles in the legislative process may become only formal. Therefore, the application of the special urgency procedure of deliberation provides very limited possibilities to ensure that the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance be followed.

In view of the above, the Constitutional Court emphasised that, while regulating, under the Constitution, the legislative procedure, the Seimas may establish such a legal regulation governing the deliberation of draft laws and other acts of the Seimas under special urgency procedure, according to which, this special urgency procedure could be applied only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it is necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state, for example, while imposing or upon imposition of martial law or a state of emergency, while announcing or upon the announcement of mobilisation, while adopting a decision to use the armed forces in the event of an armed attack and (or) when a need arises to fulfil the international obligations, due to natural disaster or under other extreme circumstances, in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature. A different legal regulation would be incompatible with the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

Thus, according to the Constitution, under normal circumstances, the practice of the adoption of laws under urgency or special urgency procedure must not prevail in the work of the Seimas.

The assessment of the compliance of Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas with the Constitution

Since the petitioner requested to assess the compliance of the impugned Law with the Constitution in terms of the procedure of its adoption and the Law was adopted under special urgency procedure, the Constitutional Court also assessed the compliance of this procedure with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court held that the deliberation of a draft under special urgency procedure established in Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas is a special legislative procedure, which is particularly expedited, when, if necessary, the Seimas may adopt a draft law with extreme urgency – the procedure of adoption of a draft law may be initiated after a break of three hours following its submission, i.e. Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas creates preconditions to adopt a draft law on the same day on which it is submitted to the Seimas.

Two following conditions are established for the application of deliberation of a draft law under special urgency procedure:

– there must be a reasoned submission by the President of the Republic, Speaker of the Seimas or his/her Deputy deputising for the Speaker of the Seimas, or the Government;

– a decision is adopted, at a Seimas sitting held for the submission or deliberation of a draft law, by a majority of votes cast by members of the Seimas, provided that the majority comprises more than one-fourth of all the members of the Seimas.

Thus, as the Constitutional Court held, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas, draft laws and other acts of the Seimas may be deliberated under special urgency procedure on any grounds submitted by the subjects specified in the said paragraph, and not only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it is necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature.

As mentioned before, the Constitutional Court noted that, when regulating the legislative procedure, the Seimas may establish such a legal regulation governing the deliberation of draft laws and other acts of the Seimas under special urgency procedure, according to which, this special urgency procedure could be applied only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it is necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state, for example, while imposing or upon imposition of martial law or a state of emergency, while announcing or upon the announcement of mobilisation, while adopting a decision to use the armed forces in the event of an armed attack and (or) when a need arises to fulfil the international obligations, due to natural disaster or under other extreme circumstances, in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature; a different legal regulation, under which draft laws and other acts of the Seimas could be considered under special urgency procedure not in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, would be incompatible with the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

In the light of the above, the Constitutional Court reached the conclusion that by means of the legal regulation established in Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas, insofar as, according to this regulation, upon a reasoned submission by the President of the Republic, Speaker of the Seimas or his/her Deputy deputising for the Speaker of the Seimas, or the Government, draft laws and other acts of the Seimas may be deliberated under special urgency procedure not only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it is necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature, the legislature disregarded the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

In the ruling of the Constitutional Court, the public audit report on law-making process carried out by the National Audit Office and published on 16 March 2018, was mentioned; in this report, it was noted that about one half of the laws adopted in Lithuania in 2008–2016 were the laws deliberated under urgency or special urgency procedure. Having analysed the data of the spring session of 2017, the National Audit Office established that 37.6 per cent (108 out of 287) laws were adopted after being deliberated under urgency or special urgency procedure. It is obvious from this audit report that, in Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Poland, this percentage of laws adopted under such a procedure does not exceed 5 for all draft laws and it is about 10 per cent in Estonia. The report also drew attention to the fact that, in 2014, when performing the evaluation, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) noted that the excessive application of urgency procedures while adopting legal acts in Lithuania could harm the publicity of various stages of adoption of legal acts and reduce the transparency of all the process; however, the deliberation of draft laws under urgency or special urgency procedure is still very frequent.

The assessment of the impugned law with the Constitution in terms of the procedure of its adoption

The petitioner impugned the compliance of the Law Amending Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 18, and 19 of the Law on Forestry (No I-671) with the Constitution in terms of the procedure of its adoption.

Having summarised the relevant factual circumstances linked to the adoption of the Law, the Constitutional Court held that the impugned Law had been adopted while applying, upon the proposal of the Speaker of the Seimas, special urgency procedure without the reasons substantiating the application of this procedure, thus, among other things, without the existence of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which required the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature.

The Constitutional Court also held that the adoption of the Law under special urgency procedure had not created preconditions for the Legal Department to assess all the provisions of its draft, among other things, the received proposals of the members of the Seimas concerning the draft Law, which were submitted during the break made during the deliberation of the draft Law under special urgency procedure; the Law was adopted under special urgency procedure by changing its draft in essence, i.e. by supplementing it with new provisions analogous to the provisions of another draft law during one day of its deliberation under special urgency procedure so avoiding the stage of deliberation of the said another draft law (i.e. the consideration and assessment of the conclusions of the independent expert evaluation concerning this draft law that had been presented, as well as the conclusions, comments, and proposals presented by other consultants, specialists, also subjects having the right of legislative initiative, additional committees designated by the Seimas, and the state and municipal institutions and establishments).

In the light of the afore-mentioned provisions of the Constitution and the official constitutional doctrine, the Constitutional Court assessed the established factual circumstances as follows:

– by adopting the impugned law under special urgency procedure in the absence of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature, the legislature did not follow the requirement to deliberate draft laws and other acts of the Seimas under special urgency procedure only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases, where it is necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which requires the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature, thus, also the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance;

– by adopting the impugned law under special urgency procedure without creating preconditions for the Legal Department to assess all the provisions of the draft, the legislature did not follow the constitutional requirement to ensure, when applying special urgency procedure of deliberation of draft laws and other acts of the Seimas, the internal preventive control of the Seimas of the compliance of laws and other acts of the Seimas with the Constitution, thus, also the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from the Constitution, among other things, Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 thereof and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance;

– by adopting the impugned law under special urgency procedure so avoiding the stage of deliberation of the said another draft law, i.e. the consideration and assessment of the conclusions of the independent expert evaluation concerning this draft law that had been presented, as well as the conclusions, comments, and proposals presented by other consultants, specialists, also subjects having the right of legislative initiative, additional committees designated by the Seimas, and the state and municipal institutions and establishments, the legislature disregarded the constitutional requirement not to ignore any stage of legislative process or rule of the adoption of laws, which is consolidated in the Constitution, laws or Statute of the Seimas, thus, also the requirement established in Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Constitution to adopt laws at the Seimas under the procedure established by means of a law, and the requirements of publicity and transparency of the legislative process and the quality requirements for the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which stem from Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

Having regard to the arguments set out, the Constitutional Court made the conclusion that, in terms of the procedure of its adoption, the Law is in conflict with Paragraphs 2 and 3 of Article 5 and Paragraph 1 of Article 69 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and responsible governance.

Having held in the ruling that, in terms of the procedure of its adoption, the whole Law Amending the Law on Forestry was in conflict with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court no longer investigated the compliance of the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law and other provisions of the Law with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, insofar as these provisions consolidate the formula “forest enterprise (enterprises)”.

However, in its ruling, the Constitutional Court pointed out that the formula “forest enterprise (enterprises)”, which was consolidated by Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Law, meant that, under Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Law on Forestry, one or a few forest enterprises could operate in the Republic of Lithuania – state enterprises established under the Law on State and Municipal Enterprises managing, using, and disposing in trust of state forests and engaged in integrated forestry activities and other type of activities defined in the articles of association of the enterprise; under this legal regulation, the Government has broad discretion to decide on the number of forest enterprises to be established in Lithuania. From the formula “forest enterprise (enterprises)” consolidated in other provisions of the Law, it is also not clear, how many forest enterprises may operate in Lithuania under the Law on Forestry.

In this respect, in its ruling, the Constitutional Court also noted that the Constitution, among other things, Articles 46 and 54 and Paragraph 2 of Article 128 thereof and the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law give rise to a duty of a legislature to establish, by means of a law, the essential conditions for forestry management; the legislature must establish a clear and reasoned model of forestry management, among other things, appropriate subjects responsible for the management of forests belonging to the state by right of ownership, or the criteria for the establishment of such subjects. While establishing the legal regulation governing forestry management, the legislature must observe, among other things, the duty of the State to regulate economic activity so that it serves the general welfare of the Nation, which stems from Paragraph 3 of Article 46 of the Constitution, by, at the same time, implementing the requirements, among other things, to ensure proper protection of forests, as well as rational management and use of them as a state-owned property, which stem from Article 54 and Paragraph 2 of Article 128 of the Constitution.

Legal consequences of the ruling of the Constitutional Court

In the ruling, the Constitutional Court pointed out that, under Paragraph 1 of Article 107 of the Constitution, a law (or part thereof) may not be applied from the day of the official publication of the decision of the Constitutional Court that the act in question (or part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution. The legal force of decisions passed by the Constitutional Court is prospective. Until the Constitutional Court has not officially published a decision that a certain legal act (part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution, it is presumed that the legal act in question (part thereof) is in compliance with the Constitution and that the legal effects that have appeared on the basis of such a legal act (part thereof) are legitimate.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that the concept of constitutional justice, which stems from the Constitution, implies not a perfunctory and nominal constitutional justice, but such final acts of the Constitutional Court that are not unjust according to their content. Otherwise, without creating the possibility for the Constitutional Court to adopt, in accordance with the powers conferred upon it, such a final act that would meet the criteria of justice, the supremacy of the Constitution in the legal system would not be guaranteed and the administration of constitutional justice and the ensuring of constitutional legality would be prevented. The powers of the Constitutional Court to administer constitutional justice and to ensure constitutional legality are inseparable from the imperatives of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, among other things, from the requirements of the protection of legitimate expectations, legal security, justice, and reasonableness.

In the light of these imperatives of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, as well as of the imperative of the balance of constitutional values and the presumption of constitutionality and legitimacy of legal acts, it was noted in the ruling that, when implementing constitutional justice and ensuring constitutional legality by the Constitutional Court in adopting rulings in considered cases, the stability of the legal system may not be violated and the confidence in subjects of legal relationships may not be lost by the legal acts adopted in the state.

Thus, the fact that it was held in this ruling that Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas, regulating the application of the special urgency procedure for the deliberation of laws, was, to the specified extent, in conflict with the Constitution could not in itself be the grounds for impugning the compliance of the laws and other acts of the Seimas, which had been adopted by applying special urgency procedure prior to the publication of this ruling at the hearing of the Constitutional Court, with the Constitution only due to the fact that the above-mentioned special urgency procedure of deliberation was applied not in the exceptional constitutionally grounded case where it was necessary to ensure immediately the vital interests of society and the state in the event of such a threat to the security of the state and society, the elimination of which required the decisions of utmost urgency of the legislature.

At the same time, the Constitutional Court emphasised that from the day of publication of this ruling, under Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas, the special urgency procedure of deliberation of laws and other acts of the Seimas should be applied only in exceptional constitutionally grounded cases. A different interpretation of this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the special urgency procedure of deliberation of laws and other acts of the Seimas, under Paragraph 1 of Article 164 of the Statute of the Seimas, could allegedly be applied from the publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court until its official publication in the Register of Legal Acts not only in these exceptional constitutionally grounded cases would be incompatible with the concept of constitutional justice and constitutional legality.

The Constitutional Court also noted that although the legal regulation established in Paragraph 2 of Article 162 of the Statute of the Seimas providing for the application of special urgency procedure for the deliberation of laws is not a matter for an investigation in the constitutional justice case at issue, from the day of the publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, special urgency procedure should be applied for the deliberation of laws upon a reasoned submission by the subjects specified in this paragraph (the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Seimas or his/her Deputy deputising for the Speaker of the Seimas, the leader of the opposition of the Seimas, the lead committee, a political group or the Government) only in those cases when the application of this procedure would be reasoned in exceptional cases, when the political, social, economic or other circumstances would require to establish, as a matter of urgency, a new legal regulation or to amend the effective legal regulation in order to ensure important interests of society and the state and to protect other constitutional values.

In its ruling, the Constitution Court also noted that by its resolution (No 647) of 2 August 2017 on the consent to reorganise state forest enterprises, pursuant to Paragraph 3 of Article 2.97 of the Civil Code and Article 18 of the Law on State and Municipal Enterprises, the Government decided to reorganise 42 forest enterprises that operated in Lithuania by way of incorporation – by incorporating them into the state enterprise State Institute of Forest Management, whose name after the reorganisation is the state enterprise State Forests’ Enterprise. Therefore, this ruling is also based on the provisions of other laws (Paragraph 3 of Article 2.97 of the Civil Code and Article 18 of the Law on State and Municipal Enterprises), not only on the provisions of the Law on Forestry.

If until the day of the official publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court (02 December 2019) the legislature did not take measures to remove the regulatory gaps and uncertainties of the legal regulation established in the Law on Forestry, after this ruling of the Constitutional Court is officially published, the model of the management of forestry, among other things, the fact of how many forest enterprises could operate, would be unregulated by means of a law. However, the legal regulation, which had been established in Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Law on Forestry, under which 42 forest enterprises operated in Lithuania, would not be automatically restored.

As mentioned before, when the Constitutional Court adopts rulings in considered cases, the stability of the legal system may not be violated and the confidence in subjects of legal relationships may not be lost by the legal acts adopted in the state with regard to the constitutional imperatives of the protection of legitimate expectations, legal security, justice, reasonableness, and the balance of constitutional values, the constitutionality and legitimacy of legal acts. In this particular case, the public interest of the stability of the legal regulation on forestry should be noted so that the management of forestry would not be disturbed.

Therefore, in view of these constitutional imperatives, the said resolution (No 647) of the Government of 02 August 2017 on the consent to reorganise state forest enterprises should be considered as effective also after the official publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court, and the fact that it was held in this ruling of the Constitutional Court that the Law Amending Articles 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 18, and 19 of the Law on Forestry (No I-671) was in conflict with the Constitution does not, in itself, provide a basis for impugning this government resolution.

Thus, this ruling of the Constitutional Court, whereby the said Law Amending the Law on Forestry was declared unconstitutional, does not change, in itself, the established model of forestry management, under which one state enterprise the State Forests’ Enterprise operates in Lithuania.