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THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF
THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

R U L I N G

On the compliance of the 31 January 1991 Supreme
Council of the Republic of Lithuania Resolution
"On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports
of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" with the
Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania

Vilnius, 21 October 1999

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Judges of the Constitutional Court Egidijus Jaraðiûnas, Egidijus Kûris, Zigmas Levickis, Augustinas Normantas, Vladas Pavilonis, Jonas Prapiestis, Vytautas Sinkevièius, and Stasys Staèiokas, with the secretary of the hearing-Daiva Pitrënaitë, in the presence of:

the representative of the party concerned-the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania-Onutë Buiðienë, a senior consultant to the Law Department of the Seimas Chancery, and Danguolë Mikulënienë, Chairman of the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language under the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania,

pursuant to Part 1 of Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Part 1 of Article 1 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Constitutional Court, on 12 October 1999 in its public hearing conducted the investigation of Case No. 14/98 subsequent to the petition submitted to the Court by the petitioner-the Vilnius Regional Court-requesting to investigate if the 31 January 1991 Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" was in conformity to Articles 18, 22 29 and 37 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court has established:

I

The petitioner-the Vilnius Regional Court-was investigating a civil case under cassation procedure in which the plaintiff requested to obligate a police commissioner's office which was issuing the plaintiff a new passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania to enter his name and family name in the plaintiff's native language.

By its ruling the said court suspended the investigation of the case at law and appealed to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting to investigate whether the 31 January 1991 Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" (Official Gazette Valstyb?s žinios, 1991, No. 5-132; hereinafter referred to as the Resolution of the Supreme Council) was in conformity to Articles 18, 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution.

The petitioner points out that in the said case the dispute concerns the peculiarities of writing of the names and family names of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who are of Polish nationality. The Resolution of the Supreme Council provided that in passports the names and family names of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who are of Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian nationality shall be written in Lithuanian letters. The petitioner maintains that such regulation might contradict Articles 18, 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution.

II

In the course of the preparation of the case for the Constitutional Court hearing, the representative of the party concerned D.Mikulënienë presented the following written explanations to the Constitutional Court hearing.

The Resolution of the Supreme Council is in compliance with Article 14 of the Constitution wherein it is established that Lithuanian shall be the State language, therefore in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania the names and family names of individuals, as well as other entries, are written in the state language of the Republic of Lithuania, i.e. in Lithuanian letters.

Article 18 of the Constitution providing that the rights and freedoms of individuals shall be inborn is of common nature and is not to be linked with the spelling rules peculiar to one or another language.

Article 22 of the Constitution does not contain any provision which might be linked with writing of names and family names in the citizen's passport as the said article guarantees inviolability of the private life of an individual. The disputed resolution does not regulate the private life of an individual as the said resolution concerns only the passport, i.e. an official document which certifies the relation of an individual with the state.

Article 29 of the Constitution establishes equality of all persons. The Resolution of the Supreme Council does not grant privileges to anyone on the basis of nationality or the language. The principle is established therein whereby the names and family names of all citizens of the Republic of Lithuania must be written in the same manner, i.e. in the state language.

The disputed resolution which provides for the right of citizens of Lithuania who are of non-Lithuanian nationality to retain in their passports the morphological forms (i.e. the suffixes and inflexions peculiar to the corresponding language) of their names and family names does not violate the right of citizens who belong to ethnic communities to foster their language as provided for in Article 37 of the Constitution. The resolution does not regulate the use of personal names in various spheres of unofficial communication, the press of ethnic minorities etc.

III

In the course of the preparation of the case for judicial investigation the explanations by G. Balèiûnas, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, R. Pikutis, Acting Chairman of the Department for Law and International Agreements at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, V. Vadapalas, Director General of the European Law Department under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, T. Birmontienë, Director of the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, L. Bilkis, Acting Head of the Division of the Whole of Proper Names of the Institute of the Lithuanian Language, were received wherein its is maintained that the 31 January 1991 Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" is in compliance with the Constitution.

IV

1. In the Constitutional Court hearing the representative of the party concerned D. Mikulënienë virtually reiterated the arguments set forth in the written explanations.

2. In the Constitutional Court hearing the representative of the party concerned O. Buiðienë presented the following explanations.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms are established in Chapter 2 of the Constitution entitled The Individual and the State. In Article 18 of this chapter the most important and priority provision is established: "The rights and freedoms of individuals shall be inborn." This provision is particularised and developed by the other constitutional norms establishing individuals' right to life, freedom, inviolability of the person, dignity and the private life, the right of citizens who belong to ethnic communities to foster their language, culture, customs etc.

Article 14 of the Constitution provides that Lithuanian shall be the state language. The purpose of this norm is to ensure the identity of the nation as a creator of the state, as well as national consciousness and self-expression, harmonious functioning of state authority, bodies of administration, various institutions, establishments, organisations and enterprises, and protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens. Following this constitutional provision, the Seimas adopted the Republic of Lithuania Law on the State Language which regulates the use of the state language in the public life of Lithuania but does not regulate the use of language in unofficial, informal relations of people in oral communication or in the events of ethnic communities or those of religious communities. This is in line with the principles of inviolability of the private life of an individual, those of personal correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph messages and other intercommunications and those of recognition and respect of human pride and dignity as established Article 22 of the Constitution.

Under Article 6 of the Law on the Sate Language, heads, employees and officers of state and local government institutions, establishments, services, as well as heads, employees and officers of other institutions must know the state language according to the language knowledge categories established by the Government. This requirement is applicable to all said persons without exceptions including citizens who belong to ethnic communities. Citizens who belong to ethnic communities may implement their rights and make use of their freedoms regardless of the fact whether they know the state language or not. This is in line with the principle of equality of people entrenched in Article 29 of the Constitution. Under the said principle, a person may not have his rights restricted in any way, or be granted any privileges, on the basis of his or her sex, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, religion, convictions, or opinions.

The right of citizens who belong to ethnic communities to foster their language, culture and customs provided for in Article 37 of the Constitution is concretised and particularised in the Law on the State Language. The preamble, Part 1 of Article 1 and Article 2 of the Law on Ethnic Minorities promulgate an obligation by the state to guarantee the implementation of the promulgated human rights. Under Part 3 of the preamble to this law, the residents of Lithuania of all nationalities must observe the Constitution and the laws, to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the State of Lithuania, take part in the creation of the independent and democratic state, respect the state language, the culture of the state, its traditions and customs. The state, taking account of the interests of ethnic communities, shall guarantee, under procedure established by laws, their said rights in the area of language, culture and fostering of customs, and the right to state support to foster their ethnic culture and education.

In the opinion of the representative of the party concerned, the Resolution of the Supreme Council is in compliance with Articles 18, 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution.

V

Also the specialist S. Vidtmann, Deputy Director of the Department for Ethnic Minorities and Emigration under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, spoke at the Constitutional Court hearing. In the opinion of the specialist, the Resolution of the Supreme Council is conformity to the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court holds that:

1. On 31 January 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, taking account of the proposals made by the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language, by its Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" established:

"1. In the passport of the citizen of Republic of Lithuania the names and family names shall be written in Lithuanian letters according to the Lithuanian entries in existing passports or other personal documents on the basis whereof the passport is issued.

2. In the issued passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania the names and family names of individuals of non-Lithuanian nationality shall be written in Lithuanian letters. Under a citizen's written request of established form, his name and family name shall be written:

(a) according to the pronunciation and without conforming to the grammatical rules (without Lithuanian inflexions)
or
(b) according to the pronunciation and conforming to the grammatical rules (by adding Lithuanian inflexions).

3. In the issued passports of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania the names and family names of persons who enjoyed citizenship of another state may be written according to the passport of the citizen of the said state or a corresponding document.

4. The names and family names entered in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania shall be altered under procedure established by legal acts."

The petitioner - the Vilnius Regional Court - had doubts whether this Resolution of the Supreme Council was in compliance with Articles 18, 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution.

2. Taking account of the motives set down in the petition of the petitioner, the Constitutional Court will only investigate the compliance of those norms of the disputed Resolution of the Supreme Council which regulate writing of names and family names of individuals of non-Lithuanian nationality in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, i.e. those of Item 2 of the Resolution, with the Constitution.

3. The passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania is a document certifying the citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania and personal identity. The name, family name of the citizen, as well as other data concerning him, are entered into the passport.

4. Under Article 14 of the Constitution, Lithuanian shall be the state language. The establishment of the status of the state language in the Constitution means that Lithuanian is a constitutional value. The state language preserves the identity of the nation, it integrates a civil nation, it ensures the expression of national sovereignty, the integrity and indivisibility of the state, and a smooth functioning of the state and local government establishments. The state language is an important guarantee for the equality of rights of citizens as it permits all the citizens to associate with state and local government establishments under the same conditions and to implement their rights and legitimate interests. The constitutional establishment of the status of state language also means that the legislator must establish by law that the use of this language is ensured in public life, and, in addition, he must provide for the means of protection of the state language. Lithuanian, after it has acquired the status of the state language in the Constitution, must be used in all state and local government institutions and in all establishments, enterprises and organisation which are on the territory of Lithuania; laws and other legal acts must be promulgated in the state language; office-work, accounting, accountabilities and financial papers must be in Lithuanian; state and local government institutions, establishments, enterprises and organisations correspond with each other in the state language.

The Constitutional Court emphasises that the constitutional status of the state language means that Lithuanian is compulsory only in the public life of Lithuania. In other spheres of life persons may use any language acceptable to them without restrictions.

Taking account of the fact that the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania is an official document certifying a permanent legal link between an individual and the state, i.e. the citizenship of an individual, and the fact that citizenship relations belong to the sphere of public life of the state, the name and family name of an individual must be written in the state language. Otherwise, the constitutional status of the state language would be denied.

5. Article 18 of the Constitution provides: "The rights and freedoms of individuals shall be inborn." The norm entrenched therein is of universal nature. On its basis human rights and freedoms are secured and protected. The principle set by this norm is disclosed in the other articles of the Constitution establishing particular human rights and freedoms. Therefore, taking into consideration the context of the case at issue, only after the compliance of the aforesaid resolution with Articles 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution pointed out by the petitioner has been investigated, one will be able to state whether Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council is in compliance with Article 18 of the Constitution.

6. Article 22 of the Constitution provides:

"The private life of an individual shall be inviolable.

Personal correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph messages, and other intercommunications shall be inviolable.

Information concerning the private life of an individual may be collected only upon a justified court order and in accordance with the law.

The law and the court shall protect individuals from arbitrary or unlawful interference in their private or family life, and from encroachment upon their honour and dignity."

The norms established in this article of the Constitution protect individuals' right to privacy. This right encompasses private, family and house life, physical and psychological inviolability of individuals, his honour and reputation, secrecy of personal facts and prohibition to publicise received or acquired confidential information etc. In case the private life of an individual is interfered in arbitrary and unlawful manner, then, alongside, his honour and dignity are encroached.

As mentioned, the sphere of compulsory use of the state language is the public life of Lithuania. Thus, it is not compulsory in private life where persons use the language chosen by them. The Resolution of the Supreme Council does not regulate private life but merely determines writing of names and family names in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania. Therefore there are no grounds to maintain that Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council contradicts Article 22 of the Constitution.

7. Article 29 of the Constitution provides:

"All persons shall be equal before the law, the court, and other State institutions and officers.

A person may not have his rights restricted in any way, or be granted any privileges, on the basis of his or her sex, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, religion, convictions, or opinions."

The principle of persons' equality before law and their non-discrimination is established in these norms. It needs to be noted that the norms of the Resolution of the Supreme Council establishing that the name and family name of an individual shall be written in Lithuanian letters in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania according to the pronunciation are applicable to all citizens without exception regardless of their nationality or other distinctions. It is the matter of the decision of an individual to what nationality he belongs, i.e. no one save the individual himself is competent to decide the question of ascription of this individual to any nationality, therefore it is impossible to establish any exclusive rules for the use of the state language by taking account of the nationality of an individual. Nor may the nationality of an individual serve the basis for him to demand that the rules arising from the status of the state language be not applied as far as he is concerned. Otherwise, the constitutional principle of equality of all persons before the law might be violated.

Attention is to be paid to the fact that individuals residing in Lithuania ascribe themselves to more than a hundred nationalities. Various letters are used in their languages which often are totally or in part different from Lithuanian letters. In case legal norms provided that the names and family names of these citizens had to be written in other, non-Lithuanian letters, then not only the constitutional principle of the state language would be denied but also the activity of state and local government institutions, that of other enterprises, establishments and organisations would be disturbed. Due to this citizens would face more difficulties in implementing their rights and legitimate interests and the principle of their equality before the law established in the Constitution would be violated.

Writing of entries in the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania in the state language does not deny the right of citizens attributing themselves to various national groups to write their names and family names in any language as long as it is not linked with the sphere of use of the state language pointed out in the law.

Taking account of the motives set forth, it is to be concluded that Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council does not contradict Article 29 of the Constitution.

8. Article 37 of the Constitution provides: "Citizens who belong to ethnic communities shall have the right to foster their language, culture, and customs."

For the ethnic communities residing on the territory of Lithuania, this constitutional norm guarantees preservation of their ethnic identity, continuance of their culture and national self-expression. It needs to be noted that the Resolution of the Supreme Council regulates relations of different nature than those regulated by Article 37 of the Constitution, therefore the said resolution is in compliance with Article 37 of the Constitution.

9. On stating that Item 2 of the Resolution of the Supreme Council is in compliance with Articles 22, 29 and 37 of the Constitution, one does not have grounds to maintain that it contradicts Article 18 of the Constitution.

Taking account of the motives set forth, one is to draw a conclusion that Item 2 of the 31 January 1991 Supreme Council Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" is in compliance with Articles 18, 22 29 and 37 of the Constitution.

Conforming to Article 102 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and Articles 53, 54, 55 and 56 of the Republic of Lithuania Law on the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court has passed the following ruling:

To recognise that Item 2 of the 31 January 1991 Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania Resolution "On Writing of Names and Family Names in Passports of Citizens of the Republic of Lithuania" is in compliance with the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.

This Constitutional Court ruling is final and not subject to appeal.

The ruling is promulgated on behalf of the Republic of Lithuania.

Source: Unofficial translation


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