Year of the Constitution 2022
Titulinė skaidrė
Teismo sudėtis
Salė
Vytis
Lt Fr

On the provision of the Law on Personal Bankruptcy whereby the prohibition to overcome the force of a ruling of the Constitutional Court was disregarded

The ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 19 May 2021

ON THE PROVISION OF THE LAW ON PERSONAL BANKRUPTCY WHEREBY THE PROHIBITION TO OVERCOME THE FORCE OF A RULING OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT WAS DISREGARDED

Summary

By this ruling, having examined the case following the petition filed by the District Court of Vilnius Region, the Constitutional Court declared Paragraph 7 (wording of 13 June 2019) of Article 29 of the Law on Personal Bankruptcy, insofar as, under that paragraph, claims for compensation for damage caused by criminal acts are written off, to be in conflict with Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 5, Paragraph 1 of Article 7, Paragraph 2 of Article 30, and Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principles of justice and a state under the rule of law.

The Constitutional Court held that the impugned legal regulation, under which claims for compensation for damage caused by criminal acts are written off at the end of the bankruptcy proceedings of a natural person, is identical to the one established on 22 December 2015, which the Constitutional Court, in its ruling of 19 May 2017, found in terms of content to have been in conflict with Paragraph 2 of Article 30 of the Constitution, as well as with the constitutional principles of justice and a state under the rule of law, having assessed the impugned legal regulation as having created the preconditions for a person who caused damage to benefit from the criminal act that he/she had committed and to avoid, in principle, the obligation to make full compensation for the damage, as well as having created the preconditions preventing a person who suffered such damage (the creditor in the bankruptcy process of the natural person) from receiving fair compensation for the damage suffered.

The Constitutional Court recalled that, as noted in its ruling of 19 May 2017, seeking to ensure a balance between the interests of an insolvent natural person and his/her creditors by means of the institution of the bankruptcy of a natural person, which is established in the law, the legislature may not deny the requirement, which arises from the Constitution, among others, from the principle of compensation for damage, laid down in Paragraph 2 of Article 30 thereof, as well as from the constitutional principles of justice and a state under the rule of law, that a person who sustained material and moral damage must be fairly compensated. Therefore, when determining the conditions for releasing bankrupt natural persons from debt obligations, the legislature may not establish such a legal regulation according to which persons would be able to avoid the duty to compensate for the material and/or moral damage caused by them by committing a criminal act and according to which a person who sustained the said damage would not be able to receive fair compensation for it.

On the basis of the same arguments as set out in its ruling of 19 May 2017, the Constitutional Court concluded that, having established the impugned legal regulation, identical to the legal regulation recognised by the Constitutional Court to have been, in terms of its content, in conflict with the Constitution, the legislature once again violated Paragraph 2 of Article 30 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of justice and a state under the rule of law.

The Constitutional Court also held that the impugned legal regulation, identical to the legal regulation declared to have been in conflict with the Constitution, had overcome the force of the ruling of the Constitutional Court of 19 May 2017.

It was recalled in the ruling that the finality and non-appealability of the decisions of the Constitutional Court, as established in Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, provides the basis for the constitutional prohibition on overcoming the legal force of a final act of the Constitutional Court. Under Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, it is forbidden to re-establish such a legal regulation that has been declared in conflict with the Constitution, as well as such a legal regulation that is incompatible with the concept of constitutional provisions that is set out in the acts of the Constitutional Court. The constitutional prohibition on overcoming the force of a final act of the Constitutional Court is one of the means, consolidated in the Constitution, for the protection of the Constitution in order to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law. Disregard of the said prohibition denies the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Constitution, and the related constitutional imperative of the rule of law, as well as other aspects of the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, among others, the principle of the separation of powers, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Constitution, and the provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 5 thereof, whereby the scope of powers is limited by the Constitution. Therefore, under the Constitution, law-making subjects cannot be given the possibility of overcoming the force of final acts of the Constitutional Court, i.e. the possibility of not following the Constitution and law for a certain period of time until the Constitutional Court repeatedly declares the respective legal regulation to be in conflict with the Constitution.

In view of this, the Constitutional Court held that, having established the impugned legal regulation, identical to the legal regulation declared by the ruling of the Constitutional Court of 19 May 2017, to have been, in terms of its content, in conflict with the Constitution, the legislature disregarded the prohibition, arising from Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, on overcoming the legal force of a final act of the Constitutional Court and, at the same time, denied the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution, laid down in Paragraph 1 of Article 7 of the Constitution, and the related constitutional imperative of the rule of law, as well as the principle of the separation of powers, which is consolidated in Paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Constitution, and the provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 5 thereof that the scope of powers is limited by the Constitution.

In addition, the Constitutional Court recalled that the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 102 and Paragraph 2 of Article 107 of the Constitution, interpreted in the context of the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution and the constitutional imperative of the rule of law, give rise, among other things, to the powers of the Constitutional Court, having found in a constitutional justice case that an impugned legal act (part thereof) is in conflict with the Constitution and having paid regard to all circumstances, also to hold that this act (part thereof) should be assessed in violation of the constitutional prohibition on overcoming the force of a final act of the Constitutional Court, and to declare anti-constitutional the consequences of the application of such a legal act (part thereof) having, prior to, this assessed the possibility of the retroactive application of the ruling to recognise the legal act (part thereof) violating the said prohibition to be in conflict with the Constitution, as well as the possible consequences of such application.

According to assessment by the Constitutional Court, the consequences that had arisen on the basis of the impugned unconstitutional legal regulation before the date of the official publication of this ruling of the Constitutional Court must not be regarded as lawful, since, otherwise, the preconditions would be created for disregarding the Constitution, among other things, for denying the principle of the supremacy of the Constitution and the related imperative of the rule of law, the administration of constitutional justice, and the constitutional principles of the separation of powers and a state under the rule of law. It was also held that, in this constitutional justice case, there were no circumstances due to which the retroactive application of this ruling of the Constitutional Court would be impossible or due to which this application would impose such a burden on society and the state that would be disproportionate to the objective of completely removing the consequences of the anti-constitutional act, or due to which particularly unfavourable consequences related to the said burden would arise for human rights and freedoms. Therefore, all consequences resulting from the application of the impugned legal regulation, under which claims for compensation for damage caused by criminal acts are written off, are anti-constitutional.