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Immovable property taken over for the construction of public roads and the expiry of the period for filing claims for compensation. K 20/09

The challenged provision is consistent with the Constitution.

At the hearing on 19 May 2011 at 1 p.m., the Constitutional Tribunal considered an application of the Polish Ombudsman concerning immovable property taken over for the construction of public roads and the expiry of the period for filing claims for compensation.

The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 73(4) of the Act of 13 October 1998 - Provisions implementing statutes which reform public administration was consistent with Article 21(2) in conjunction with Article 31(3) as well as with Article 2 of the Constitution, and the principle of appropriate legislation derived therefrom. As to the remainder, the Tribunal discontinued the proceedings.

The Constitutional Tribunal stated that the assessment of conformity to the principle of appropriate legislation should primarily be carried out by applying two criteria which comprise the test of specificity of law. The first criterion is precision, which should be understood as a possibility of decoding from the provisions of legal norms, by means of interpretative rules established in a given legal culture. Precision manifests itself in such a manner of regulating rights and obligations that their content is virtually unambiguous and allows for the exercise thereof. The other criterion is comprehensibility which implies that the text is understood at the level of general language. This is achieved by respecting the rules on legal drafting.

Bearing in mind the established views concerning the rules on legal drafting, the Constitutional Tribunal stated that applying linguistic rules for interpretation of the challenged provision allows to determine: a) the moment when the property was transferred ipso jure to a public law entity, “with the payment of compensation”; b) the moment since when it was possible to specify the claims for compensation on expropriation; c) irrelevance of a voivode’s decision as regards the possibility of filing a claim for compensation; d) the interpretation of the phrase “upon a claim by the owner of immovable property”. With regard to the last term, the Constitutional Tribunal shared the view of the Chief Administrative Court - formulated in the judgment of 11 January 2010, Ref. No. I OPS 3/09.

Making reference to the allegation of infringement of Article 21(2) in conjunction with Article 31(3) of the Constitution, the Tribunal stated that Article 73(4) of the implementing provisions met the criterion of usefulness, necessity and proportionality. Indeed, it had been established in constitutional jurisprudence that Article 73 of the implementing provisions was aimed at adjusting the actual and legal state of affairs with regard to immovable property taken over for the construction of public roads, in order to maintain balance between public and private interests. In the view of the Tribunal, the norm under review, which directly allowed for achieving the above-mentioned goal, did not impose excessive burdens on entitled persons or entities. The legislator deferred the possibility of filing and satisfying claims for compensation, in such a way that the entitled persons or entities had two years - without prejudice to their subjective right - for acquiring information about the adopted legislative solution, and the consequences thereof as regards their property rights.

The satisfaction of a claim for compensation was contingent on the action and diligence of entitled persons or entities. The assumption that civil law requires the concerned persons or entities to look after their rights is approved of in a democratic state ruled by law.

In the opinion of the Constitutional Tribunal, the introduction of a 5-year period during which it was possible to file claims for compensation, at the same time with the preservation of minimal procedural requirements, did not undermine the essence of the right to just compensation.

The hearing was presided over by Judge Mirosław Granat, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Stanisław Rymar.

The judgment is final and its operative part shall be published in the Journal of Laws.