Experts criticise Constitutional Court for exceeding mandate

Tuesday’s Constitutional Court decision came as quite a surprise to many people, not least constitutional lawyers, who questioned the court’s right to postpone elections. Earlier today, I spoke to Charles University’s Jan Kudrna – an expert on the Constitution and one of the most vociferous critics of the move – I asked him whether he thought the Constitutional Court had overstepped its mandate:

“In my opinion, the current situation is absolutely clear. The Constitutional Court has exceeded its mandate. Its task is to check whether the laws and other acts are in harmony with the Constitution and its amendments, and now the Constitutional Court says that an amendment, which is actually a part of the Constitution, breaks the Constitution. So, we are now in the illogical situation where the court wants to influence the Constitution itself. And the Constitution should actually be providing a framework for the court.”

Surely the Czech Constitution is supposed to stop situations like this from arising, not create such situations?

“The situation from a legal point of view is rather more complicated, because the Constitution itself, as with any other law, cannot predict such an illogical decision. And anyway, yesterday’s court decision doesn’t mean that we need to stop preparing for the elections, as it says nothing about that.”

What can be done, do you think, to make sure that nothing like this happens again? Should we be thinking about changing the Czech Constitution itself?

“In my opinion, this is the time to think about redefining the position of the Constitutional Court. To be clear, I am not talking about abolishing the Constitutional Court, but about defining strongly and clearly what the court may, and may not, do in certain areas.

“I am afraid that nobody is able to predict what the Constitutional Court wants to do now, and what decision it will make in the future, because now we are out of the Constitution, out of the act on the Constitutional Court, and now it is the time to be directing these questions to the Constitutional Court, to the judges and the chairman of the Constitutional Court.”