Since the reform of administrative justice accomplished in January 2003, the protection of individual public-law rights in the Czech Republic has entered into a new phase. The actual creation of the Supreme Administrative Court made good on a long-standing constitutional debt dating back to 1993, when the new Constitution of the Czech Republic provided for a Supreme Administrative Court, but which for a decade thereafter was not brought into existence.
Administrative justice has a long tradition in our country. A detailed account of the historical development of administrative justice is given in a special section of this web-site. In order to better understand the present Czech system of administrative justice, it should be remembered that administrative justice was suppressed following the Communist take-over in 1948 and was re-established only in 1991 (by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms). The new administrative justice procedure, hastily adopted in 1992, was deficient from the very beginning. It also became partially incompatible with the Czech Republic’s obligations under international law (the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms). In the course of 1990s, several attempts were made to pass a new legislative framework, but all failed. The decisive incentive for the adoption of new legislation eventually came with a decision of the Constitutional Court (published as no. 276/2001 Coll.). In this decision, the Constitutional Court annulled a substantial portion of the Code of Civil Procedure, in fact the entire part governing the procedure at administrative justice. The Constitutional Court decision paved the way for the adoption of new legislation, which provided for the institutional, jurisdictional and procedural framework of the new system of administrative justice.
The new legal regime for administrative justice consists of several laws; law no. 150/2002 Coll., the Code of Administrative Justice (hereinafter CAJ), the accompanying law no. 151/2002 Coll., on the amendments related to the adoption of the Code of Administrative Justice and law no. 131/2002 Coll., on Deciding Certain Conflicts of Competence.
The judiciary is, together with the legislature and the executive, one of the three basic powers in a state. Its traditional task is, apart from criminal justice, to provide protection of individual private rights. Individual private rights stem from legal relationships in the areas of civil, commercial, labour or family law. They are characterised by the equality of parties to the legal relationship.
There are also, apart from these “private” rights, individual rights and duties that exist between parties, which are in an unequal position. These typically occur between a natural or legal person on the one side and a state authority, a municipality or a region on the other. This type of legal relationships is characterised by the inferior position of the natural or legal person in the legal relationship. In other words, the superior party in the legal relationship is given the legal privilege of authoritatively deciding on the rights or duties of the natural or legal person. This type of legal relationship is called a public law legal relationship.
This type of legal relationship is quite common in everyday life: most people, at one time or another, are confronted with tax or customs rules, trade licenses, construction permits, traffic rules, various dues and duties etc. In similar types of public law legal relationships, it is the state that represents the general interest in matters like socio-economic rights, a healthy environment, the protection of the cultural heritage, the right to information etc. In all these cases, we find ourselves in the realm of public law and public law legal relationships.
It is a very old principle that public law legal relationships and individual rights and duties flowing there from are to be protected by an independent judiciary and that everybody who claims that his/her rights have been violated by an act of a public authority has the right to an effective judicial remedy. As evidenced in our recent history, the assertion of this principle in absolutist, authoritarian or totalitarian regimes is unfeasible. The new framework of administrative justice, in force since 2003, provides the individual with a greater level of judicial protection: not only are potential encroachments by public authorities broadly defined, but the protection is also more effective. The litigants are furthermore provided with more extensive procedural rights.
What types of judicial protection are available?
- Action against a decision of an administrative authority
- Protection against a failure to act
- Protection against unlawful interference
- Justice in electoral matters and local and regional referdum
- Justice in matters concerning political parties or political movements
- Judicial review of measures of a general nature
- Competence complaints
- Remedies against decisions of administrative courts
- Decisions of administrative authorithies in private law matters
- Conflicts of competence between the executive and the judiciary