Постановление Европейского суда по правам человека от 08.04.2010 «Дело Сизинцева и другие (sizintseva and others) против России» [англ.]

Город принятия

EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
FIRST SECTION
CASE OF SIZINTSEVA AND OTHERS v. RUSSIA
(Applications Nos. 38585/04, 2795/05, 18590/05,

24012/07 and 55283/07)
JUDGMENT*
(Strasbourg, 8.IV.2010)
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*This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.

In the case of Sizintseva and Others v. Russia,

The European Court of Human Rights (First Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:

Christos Rozakis, President,

Nina {Vajic}*,

____________________________
*Здесь и далее по тексту слова на национальном языке набраны латинским шрифтом и выделены фигурными скобками.

Anatoly Kovler,

Elisabeth Steiner,

Khanlar Hajiyev,

Giorgio Malinverni,

George Nicolaou, judges,

and {Soren} Nielsen, Section Registrar,

Having deliberated in private on 18 March 2010,

Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:

PROCEDURE
1. The case originated in five applications (Nos. 38585/04, 2795/05, 18590/05, 24012/07 and 55283/07) against the Russian Federation lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ("the Convention") by five Russian nationals. The applicants' names and the dates of their applications to the Court appear in the appended table.

2. The Russian Government ("the Government") were initially represented by Ms V. Milinchuk, former Representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, and subsequently by their Representative, Mr G. Matyushkin.

3. On various dates the President of the First Section decided to give notice of the applications to the Government. It was also decided to examine the merits of the applications at the same time as their admissibility (Article 29 § 3).

4. The Government objected to the joint examination of the admissibility and merits of the application No. 38585/04, but the Court rejected this objection.

THE FACTS
I. The circumstances of the case
5. The applicants live in the Sakha (Yakutiya) Republic. Their names and dates of birth are indicated in the appended table.

6. In 1990, since cars were not available in free trade, the applicants chose to obtain State special-purpose promissory notes which would entitle them to Russian-made cars. Mrs Valentina Plotnikova should have received a car in 1992 and the other applicants in 1993 - 1995. The applicants paid the car's full value but never received the cars.

7. In 1998 Mrs V. Plotnikova and in 2002 Mrs Gladkova and I. Plotnikova received partial compensation of a car's monetary value in accordance with the State Programme for the redemption of the State internal debt (see paragraphs 20 - 22 below).

8. All applicants brought court actions against the authorities, seeking to recover the full monetary value of the State promissory notes for purchasing of Russian-made cars.

9. On the dates listed in the Appendix the domestic courts found, in respect of each applicant, with reference to the State Commodity Bonds Act of 1995 as amended on 2 June 2000 (see paragraph 19 below) that the State could not be absolved from an obligation to compensate them the full value of the cars. In particular, in the case of Mrs Sizintseva the Supreme Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya) held as follows:

"In accordance with the State Commodity Bonds Act of 1 June 1995 the State commodity bonds, including the special-purpose settlement orders, were to be recognised as the State internal debt. [...]
The State has not complied with its obligation to provide [the applicant] with a car as specified in a special-purpose settlement order.

Article 55 of the Constitution [...] stipulates that in the Russian Federation no laws shall be adopted cancelling or derogating human rights and freedoms.

Therefore, the Federal law of 2 June 2000 amending the [State Commodity Bonds Act of 1995] cannot be regarded as well-founded and lawful insofar as it provides for the payment of the compensation in the amount equalling to a part of the car's value specified in the special-purpose settlement order.

These [amendments] do not comply with the constitutional principles [cited above]"
The court accordingly refused to take account of the amendments of 2 June 2000 and chose to apply the price scale for the cars to be purchased under the settlement orders as in force on the date of delivery of the judgment. Similarly, in the case of Mr Titov the Mirninskiy Town Court held on 16 October 2001 that the amendments introduced by the Federal Law of 2 June 2000 "constituted an interference with the citizen's rights to receive a car" and "contradicted to Article 55 of the Constitution". When determining the claim by Mrs Gladkova, the first instance court reached a similar conclusion and ruled that the amendments in question were adopted "in violation of [...] the Constitution, the Civil Code and the State Commodity Bonds Act of 1995". In the case of Irina Plotnikova the Neryungri Town Court hold that the ex parte change of the conditions of redemption by the Government was to the detriment of the applicant's interests and therefore was unlawful.

10. The domestic courts accordingly awarded the applicants compensation in the amounts specified below payable by the State authorities, these sums representing the full monetary value of the cars on the date of the delivery of the judgments. In cases of Mrs Gladkova, Valentina Plotnikova and Irina Plotnikova the domestic courts deducted from the full value of the car the amount of the compensation these applicants had received in 1998 - 2002. On the dates specified in the Appendix the judgments became final.

11. The awards remained unenforced.

12. On the dates cited in the appended table the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Sakha (Yakutiya) Republic, upon an application from the Ministry of Finance and by way of supervisory-review proceedings, quashed the final judgments in the applicants' favour, re-examined the cases, reduced the amount of the compensation to be paid in case of Mrs Valentina Plotnikova to 28,009 Russian roubles (RUB) and dismissed in full the actions of the remaining applicants. In each case the Presidium found that the lower courts had misapplied the applicable domestic law. In particular, in every case except for the case of Valentina Plotnikova, the Presidium found that the lower courts had neglected to take into account the provisions of the amended State Commodity Bonds' Act and the Government's Resolution No. 1006. In the case of Mrs Sizintseva the Presidium formulated the conclusion as regards the quashing as follows:

"The [appeal instance] had not taken into account the provisions of [the amendments introduced by the Federal Law of 2 June 2000], in force at the material time. A decision by the [appeal instance] based on incorrect application of the material law shall be quashed"
13. Similar conclusion was reached by the supervisory instance in the other cases.

14. Mrs Gladkova submitted that she had not been timeously notified of the session of the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutiya) and therefore could not attend it.

15. According to the Government, RUB 28,009 awarded to Mrs Valentina Plotnikova by the supervisory instance judgment of 26 November 2006 (see Appendix below), has not been paid to her to date.

II. Relevant domestic law and practice
A. The Constitution and the Civil Code
of the Russian Federation
16. According to Article 15 § 1 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Constitution has the supreme juridical force, direct action and shall be used on the whole territory of the Russian Federation. Laws and other legal acts adopted in the Russian Federation shall not contradict the Constitution.

17. In accordance with Article 125 § 4 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation reviews constitutionality of the law applied or due to be applied in a specific case in accordance with procedures established by federal law, upon requests of the courts.

18. By the Ruling No. 19-П of 17 June 1998 the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation held that it had exclusive competence to decide whether federal or regional laws violated the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Ordinary courts were not entitled to rule on the constitutionality of federal laws. In case of doubt as to whether a law complied with the Constitution, they should direct an inquiry to the Constitutional Court.

B. The State Commodity Bonds Act
19. On 2 June 2000, section 3 of the State Commodity Bonds Act (federal law No. 86-FZ of 1 June 1995) providing that the special-purpose settlement orders were to be recognised as the State internal debt was amended to read, in the relevant parts, as follows:

"To set, in the [State Programme for the redemption of the State internal debt of the Russian Federation], the following sequence and terms of redemption of State commodity bonds, depending on the type of the bond:

- [...] in respect of bearers of special-purpose settlement orders that gave the right to purchase passenger cars in 1991 and 1992 - payment of monetary compensation equal to the value of the car described in the order, as determined in co-ordination with car manufacturers at the moment of redemption. [...]
- in respect of bearers of special-purpose settlement orders that gave the right to purchase passenger cars in 1993 - 1995 - payment of monetary compensation equal to a part of the value of the car described in the order, as determined on account of the percentage of the part of the full value of car paid by the owner by 1 January 1992 (in accordance with the price scales in force until 1 January 1992), as well as the price of the cars determined in co-ordination with car manufacturers at the moment of redemption"
20. For the summary of the other relevant domestic law provisions see Grishchenko v. Russia, (dec.), No. 75907/01, 8 July 2004.

THE LAW
I. Joinder of the applications
21. Given that the five applications at hand concern similar facts and complaints and raise identical issues under the Convention, the Court decides to consider them in a single judgment.

II. Alleged violation of Article 6 of the Convention
and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 on account
of supervisory review
22. The applicants complained, notably, under Article 6 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 about the supervisory review of the judgments. Mrs Gladkova complained under these provisions that she was not notified of the supervisory review hearing and could not be present at the examination of her case. These Articles, insofar as relevant, provide as follows:

Article 6 § 1
"In the determination of his civil rights and obligations..., everyone is entitled to a fair... hearing... by [a]... tribunal..."
Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
"Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law..."
A. The parties' submissions
23. As regards the case of Mrs Sizintseva, the Government argued that she had not raised a legal certainty issue in her application to the Court, but only challenged the fairness of the domestic proceedings. Thus, even having a right to investigate proprio motu whether the facts at consideration disclosed other violations of the Convention than those stated in the application, the Court had raised the legal certainty issue outside the six months time-limit established by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention.

24. The Government further submitted, in respect of all cases, that the supervisory review had not breached the principle of legal certainty: it had been preceded by an ordinary appeal, only one supervisory-review instance had been engaged, the request for the quashing had been lodged within six months, it had been initiated by a party to the proceedings and it had been meant to correct a misapplication of material law.

25. They further argued that the supervisory review had aimed at remedying a fundamental defect of the proceedings before the lower courts. They stressed that the lower courts were not competent to rule on compliance of the provisions of the Federal Law of 2 June 2000 with the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Instead, they should have introduced a request for review of the constitutionality of the Federal Law in question with the Constitutional Court and suspend the proceedings pending delivery of the relevant ruling. However, they failed to make such request, and no suspension of the proceedings took place. Therefore, the examination of the applicants' cases before the lower courts was tarnished by a fundamental defect, namely abuse of power by the courts and jurisdictional error. In these circumstances, quashing was the only available way to rectify the fundamental defect and to restore legal certainty in the present cases.

26. They further argued that the applicants' rights under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 had not been prejudiced: Mrs Gladkova, V. Plotnikova and I. Plotnikova had received compensation for the cars before the litigation, while the other applicants had failed to apply for redemption of the promissory notes.

27. The applicants maintained their claims.

B. The Court's assessment
1. Admissibility
28. As regards the Court's competence to examine Mrs Sizintseva's case and as concerns compliance with the six months rule, the Court reiterates that it has jurisdiction to review in the light of the entirety of the Convention's requirements the circumstances complained of by an applicant and, notably, is free to attribute to the facts of the case, as found to be established on the evidence before it, a characterisation in law different from that given by the applicant or, if need be, to view the facts in a different manner (see Foti and Others v. Italy, 10 December 1982, Series A No. 56, § 44, and Smirnova and Smirnova v. Russia (dec.), Nos. 46133/99 and 48183/99, 3 October 2002). The Court further notes that the application form was submitted by Mrs Sizintseva on 7 October 2004, that is within six months from the date of the quashing of the judgment in her favour. The application set out the relevant facts concerning the supervisory review proceedings and made a general claim in relation to Article 6 of the Convention. The Court therefore finds that it may