Legal issue: the constitutionality of the amendments to the legislation on public gatherings, provided that 1) their adoption was associated with a number of concomitant violations of legislative procedure, and 2) they envisage excessive administrative sanctions, prohibitions and restrictions.
Ratio decidendi: following the consideration of the case, the Court adopted an extensive judgment, in which it 1) deemed the contested law to be conformant to the Constitution in respect of the procedure of its adoption by the State Duma; and 2) refused to deem to be unconstitutional the following provisions:
- the prohibition to be an organizer of a public gathering for the person who was at least twice brought to administrative liability for the offences envisaged by corresponding rules of the Code of Administrative Offences within the term in which the person was considered to be subjected to an administrative punishment;
- administrative fines for citizens in the amount up to 300 thousand RUR and for officials – up to 600 thousand RUR;
- the provisions which allow to freely realize preliminary agitation about the public gathering only from the moment of its being agreed with the relevant authorities;
- the duty of the organizer of the public gathering to adopt measures against exceeding the number of its participants which was indicated in the notice about its holding;
- some restrictions related to the manner of picketing;
- the extension up to one year of the period of limitation concerning administrative liability for the violation of rules on assemblies, meetings, demonstrations, manifestations, and picketing.
At the same time, the Court gave to these provisions a lenient interpretation, and deemed some other provisions to be non-conformant to the Constitution, including:
- strict civil law liability of the organizer of public gathering for damage caused by its participants;
- the right of regional executive authorities to allocate special places arranged for public gatherings.
The scale of violations of the rights of constituent entities of the Russian Federation that was committed in the course of adoption of the law, clearly testifies to the unconstitutionality of the contested law as to the procedure of its adoption; the recognition of this fact would have liberated the Court from the necessity to analyse the substantive part of the law – it is impossible to analyse the thing which does not exist; as Justice Danilov put it, “it is senseless to seek for mature fruits on the branches of a poisoned tree”.
Judge Kazantsev wrote in defense of the right of preliminary agitation on public gathering and the right to single picketing, and also he pointed out that the agreement-notification procedures are a necessary element of the constitutional process of adopting federal laws on the matters of joint competence, and the retreat from them may serve as a ground for deeming the federal law to be unconstitutional as to the procedure of its adoption.
The contested laws must be deemed unconstitutional as a whole due to violation of the procedure for their adoption.