Press release after the hearing concerning the obligation to have one’s driving licence replaced (a risk that driving licences issued on the basis of previously binding provisions will cease to be valid for an indefinite period) K 5/13
The replacement of driving licences that have been issued for an indefinite period is consistent with the Constitution.
At the hearing on 12 December 2013 at 8.30 a.m., the Constitutional Tribunal considered joined applications, submitted by a group of Senators and a group of Sejm Deputies, with regard the obligation to have one’s driving licence replaced (a risk that driving licences issued on the basis of previously binding provisions would cease to be valid for an indefinite period).
The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 124(6) of the Act on Vehicle Drivers, insofar as it concerned the replacement of driving licences that had been issued for an indefinite period, was consistent with the principle of specificity of legal provisions, the principle of protection of citizens’ trust in the state and its laws as well as the principle of protection of justly acquired rights, arising from Article 2 of the Constitution.
As to the remainder, the Tribunal discontinued the proceedings on the grounds that issuing a judgment was inadmissible.
In the case under examination, the applicants challenged three provisions – Article 75, Article 76 and Article 124 of the Act on Vehicle Drivers. Considering the allegations and the arguments presented in support thereof, the Tribunal established that merely one of them could be the subject of the review in that context, namely Article 124(6) of the Act on Vehicle Drivers, insofar as it concerned the replacement of driving licences that had been issued for an indefinite period. As to the remainder, the Tribunal discontinued the proceedings on the grounds that issuing a judgment was inadmissible. In particular, with regard to Article 75 and Article 76 of the Act on Vehicle Drivers, the applicants did not justify their allegations about unconstitutionality to the extent that was required by the Constitutional Tribunal Act. Both provisions had extensive normative content which the applicants had largely overlooked. By contrast, pursuant to the principle set out in Article 66 of the Constitutional Tribunal Act that the Tribunal should, while adjudicating, be bound by the limits of the application, the statement of reasons constituted an integral part of the application and the lack thereof made it impossible to examine the allegation of unconstitutionality.
The challenged provision of the Act on Vehicle Drivers was one of provisions aimed at implementing the content of Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences into the Polish legal system. The aim of the Directive was, inter alia, to introduce a uniform Community model driving licence in all the EU Member States. The Directive imposed an obligation on the Member States to ensure that, by 19 January 2033, all driving licences issued or in circulation would fulfil all the requirements of the Directive as well as it set periods of the administrative validity of such licences.
Pursuant to challenged Article 124(6) of the Act on Vehicle Drivers, driving licenses subject to replacement would remain valid for a period they had been issued for, but no later than the time-limit for replacement that had been set by statute, non-compliance with which would result in the invalidity of the document. The applicants justified their allegations about the unconstitutionality of that provision, by stating that in the event of failure to fulfil the obligation to have one’s old driving licence replaced with a new one, the former would become invalid, which would lead to a breach of the protection of drivers’ acquired rights, who had acquired their driving licences for an indefinite period under the previously binding provisions. The Constitutional Tribunal disagreed with that allegation. A driving licence merely confirmed the right to drive, and thus its invalidity did not result in the invalidity of the right. The replacement of that document, referred to in that provision, did not require undertaking actions aimed at acquiring the right to drive.
Therefore, Article 124(6) of the said Act did not infringe justly acquired rights. It did not deprive drivers of their right to drive. And a driving licence as a document confirming such a right might not be regarded as a justly acquired right. Hence, it was admissible to oblige citizens to have the said document replaced with one made in accordance with a new template, as long as such action on the legislator’s part was not arbitrary in character. In the case of the challenged regulation, the necessity to replace driving licences had been sufficiently justified in the bill which later became the said Act, and which made reference to the above-mentioned Directive.
Also, Article 124(6) of the said Act did not infringe the principle of protection of citizens’ trust in the state and its laws as well as the principle of specificity of legal provisions. What clearly followed from its wording was that driving licences would become invalid after the lapse of the time-limit set for their replacement. However, that would have no impact on the further existence of the right to drive on the part of persons who had the licences. There were no grounds to assume that the content of that provision was, within that scope, unclear and imprecise to the extent that would undermine citizens’ trust in the state and its laws.
The hearing was presided over by Judge Zbigniew Cieślak, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Marek Kotlinowski.
The judgment is final and its operative part shall be published in the Journal of Laws.