The Constitutional Court of Romania has ruled that the decrees under which president Klaus Iohannis declared the state of emergency 'exceeded the legal framework' and the increased fines given over this period are unconstitutional
One of the measures imposed during the state of emergency in Romania was a significant increase in the value of the fines meant to discourage those who would hamper authorities' efforts to eradicate the new coronavirus. Under an emergency government decree, Romanians caught red-handed were forced to pay huge amounts, as to their purchasing power. Against a medium salary of approx. 700 Euro, the minimum fine was increased to 400 Euro, and the maximum one to over 4000 Euro.
Also, against the background of some rather vague provisions included in the military decrees issued during the state of emergency, whose interpretation was left to the discretion of the police, some people were caught offside and fined abusively; for example, elderly people without any kind of support or less informed or educated people from the rural areas.
In this context, on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court of Romania admitted the claim filed by the Ombudsman against the emergency government decree that established those huge sanctions for non-compliance with the rules of quarantine and isolation. In other words, the very large fines were declared unconstitutional.
The CCR judges argue that the provisions of the decree are lacking in clarity, precision and predictability, and the establishment of the facts constituting a contravention is left, arbitrarily, to the discretion of police officers.
The Liberal Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has reacted, saying the ruling of the Constitutional Court is a political one:
"We could say that this ruling actually prevents the Government, the authorities, from protecting the health and lives of the Romanians. This decision can lead to a situation in which authorities can no longer impose any fines for violating the rules that are established during the state of emergency."
In turn, the Finance Minister Florin Citu has defended himself, stating that the role of the large fines was not to bring money to the budget, but to reduce the risk of further spread.
On the other side of the political barricade, the opposition represented by the Social Democratic Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and Pro Romania, have drafted a bill to automatically cancel most of the fines given during the state of emergency, so the activity of the courts is not blocked with hundreds of thousands of lawsuits.
The Foundation for the Protection of Citizens against State Abuse has informed all Romanians who consider that they have been abusively fined that, at least for now, they can challenge the fines in court until May 30th. More than 300 thousand fines have been given over this period of time. (M.Ignatescu)