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Judgement of the Constitutional Court on constitutionality of law on non-commercial organisations and administrative fines

08 April 2014

On 6 March 2014 a hearing was held in relation to constitutionality of some provisions of the law on public associations and non-commercial organisations. The Court rendered the provisions of the law on non-commercial organisations and the Administrative Offences Code in dispute noncontroversial to the Constitution of the Russian Federation. However, the stipulated fines for individuals and legal entities were found unconstitutional.

On 8 April 2014 the Constitutional Court of Russia announced its judgement on examination of constitutionality of some provisions of the law on public associations and non-commercial organisations, as well as of Part 1 Article 19.34 of the Russian Administrative Offences Code.

The hearing held on 6 March 2014 was based on the appeals from the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, individuals Mr S.Smirensky, Ms V.Yukecheva, Ms L.Kuzmina, and the legal entity Kostromskoy Centre of Public Initiatives Foundation.

The Constitutional Court made a conclusion that a non-commercial organisation activity can be considered political, if it is focused on influencing the government policy or forming of a relevant public opinion. In case these aims are missing, the organisation cannot be considered to be functioning as a foreign agent, even if it criticises government or initiates oppositional public mood. Besides, to be relevantly classified, these aims shall be pursued by the organisation as a whole, rather than by some of its participants acting individually and on their own initiative.

When a non-commercial organisation is involved in some political activity, it affects rights and freedoms of all citizens. In addition, the fact that an organisation receives some funds and property from international sources cannot eliminate possibility that it could be used in the interests of the sponsors. Therefore, the legislative separation of such non-commercial organisations conforms to the ensuring of the constitutionally important public interests, as well as the protection of national sovereignty.

At the same time, the most important guarantee of the non-commercial organisations’ rights observance provided by the Constitutional Court to a controlling authority is the right to issue warnings or notices, allowing to avoid immediate imposing of administrative fines and to appeal against them in court.

Accordingly, the Court rendered the provisions of the law on non-commercial organisations and the Administrative Offences Code in dispute noncontroversial to the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

However, the provided high lower limits of fines for individuals and legal entities were nevertheless found unconstitutional by the Court. In the meantime, the Constitutional Court ordered the legislative authorities to make relevant amendments to the Administrative Offences Code, so that cases, i.e. the part inconsistent with the Judgement, of the applicants in the interests of whom the Commissioner acted shall be reviewed.

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