Nature of the revocation of a shotgun permit
Right of individuals to participate in decision-making processes
RULING Nº 1010/96
8 of October of 1996
The Constitution provides citizens with various guarantees for fair and adequate administrative procedure regulating access to law and the application of law. The essential guarantees are the right of individuals to participate in decision-making processes and deliberations which relate to them, and the principles of impartial public administration, defence in disciplinary procedure, information by the public authorities, grounding of administrative decisions, and compliance of procedure with fundamental civic rights.
When an administrative authority is vested with power to withdraw a firearm permit from a person manifestly unfit to retain it, the conferment of such power cannot be challenged since there is no constitutional right to bear arms. At all events, confiscation of the permit constitutes revocation of an administrative authorisation which has an effect comparable to that of a penalty and is therefore subject to the constitutional principle that the person concerned shall receive a prior hearing.
A constitutional construction of the law involves an interpretation aimed at integrating the law with the Constitution, that is allowing the constitutional provisions of direct relevance to a given law (whose provisions are insufficient and therefore potentially unconstitutional) to be used to interpret that law.
In the case in point, the Constitutional Court had to rule on an appeal against an administrative court decision not to enforce, on the grounds of unconstitutionality, a legal norm enabling the police authority to order confiscation of firearm permits and forfeiture of firearms (hunting licences and sporting guns included) whenever it sees fit, in particular when the owner of the firearm is known to have used it in an unauthorised place or in a reckless manner.
The legal norm at issue may nevertheless be interpreted by the strict constitutional method, to the effect that a procedure ensuring a hearing for the party is mandatory. Assuming that the impugned decision entails refusal to apply a norm which the Constitutional Court then declares consistent with the Constitution on the basis of a specific interpretation, the norm must be applied in the instant proceedings according to that interpretation.
The Court's judgment is founded on the rule of law principle (Article 2 of the Constitution), the guarantees secured to citizens in respect of administrative procedure (especially Article 269.3), and on Article 80.3 of the Law on the Organisation, Operation and Procedure of the Constitutional Court where the specifics of interpretation and the effects of the decision are concerned.