Who passed that law?


Approving new laws is no easy task – especially when you have to change the foundations of the whole legal system as Czech lawmakers had to do in the years after the fall of communism. Every year Parliament debates and approves dozens of new laws and hundreds of amendments. And in the process of debating and changing the proposed drafts mistakes can slip in and absurdities sometimes go unnoticed. Of course, we all make mistakes but because the legal system affects every aspect of our lives a law-maker’s mistakes are more visible.

Take for instance the road law approved in mid-2006. It was heralded as a revolution on Czech roads, meant to reduce the number of casualties and make undisciplined drivers toe the line. It took months to complete and was re-worked numerous times. But it was only after it took affect that a huge absurdity came to light. According to the law a driver, cyclist or anyone who caused an accident in which they alone suffered an injury was to be fined from 10 to 50 thousand crowns. Now that wasn’t the intention, as the then transport minister Milan Šimonovský explained. Law-makers had intended to say that “someone who injured another person should be fined” and in the process of re-drafting the word “another” was dropped. The minister noted that this was most unfortunate and would be amended – but the police were sticking to the law. You fall off your bike and hurt yourself –you get a fine. Twenty year old Tomáš Petru from Zlin was asked to pay 25,000 crowns, after falling in front of a car and suffering a broken nose and other injuries. People reacted differently – some tried to make the officers see sense and pointed out that it was ridiculous that they should be made to pay for hurting themselves. Others tried to get the fine lowered – or to get officers to overlook the so-called transgression. They in turn argued that they had to file a report and were bound by the law to fine the offender. Complaints about this piled up both at the police presidium and in the lower house of Parliament and late last year a new amendment was passed putting things straight. Cyclists who fall off their bikes now only need to worry about getting back on their feet and paying to get their bike fixed. But one can’t help wondering where the next “dodgy” amendment will crop up.