Exclusive Competence for the Review of the Legality of General Legal Acts

The Constitutional Court decided on the request of the Administrative Court to review the constitutionality of Article 58 of the Spatial Management Act (hereinafter referred to as the SPA-2), which regulated judicial protection against spatial planning documents as general legal acts in administrative disputes. In the opinion of the Administrative Court, by determining that the Administrative Court decides on the legality of municipal ordinances, the legislature interfered with the constitutional regulation of the competence to decide on the legality of general legal acts. The Constitutional Court thus conducted a review of the constitutionality of the statutory regulation of judicial protection against spatial planning documents as general legal acts in administrative disputes. It held that Article 58 of the SPA-2 was inconsistent with the Constitution.

At the outset, the Constitutional Court established that spatial planning documents, as they had been regulated by the SPA-2, fulfilled the substantive criteria that enabled them to be classified as general legal acts. By their legal nature, state spatial planning documents are implementing regulations of executive or administrative authorities, whereas municipal spatial planning documents are regulations of local communities, and as such both categories form part of the hierarchical system of the legal order, wherein they are placed between laws, on the one side, and individual legal acts and material actions, on the other.

In accordance with the Constitution, the competence to decide on the consistency of implementing regulations and the regulations of local communities with the Constitution and laws is vested in the Constitutional Court, and the Constitution authorises it to annul or abrogate unconstitutional or illegal implementing regulations or general acts of local communities. In light of the applicant’s allegations, the Constitutional Court therefore had to assess whether the mentioned powers of the Constitutional Court as enshrined in the Constitution allow the legislature to regulate judicial protection against spatial planning documents as general legal acts by determining that (also) the Administrative Court is competent to decide on such in administrative disputes and granting it the power to (partially) annul or abrogate spatial planning documents.

The Constitution authorises the legislature to regulate the competence of the courts, including the determination of courts’ competence regarding administrative judicial protection, as well as to amend and supplement the existing regulation within the performance of its legislative function. However, in so doing, the legislature must respect the Constitution. Relying on established constitutional case law, the Constitutional Court stated that the fundamental rules governing the positions of and relations between the bearers of the individual functions of state power are determined already by the Constitution, and constitutional subject matter may only be further elaborated and determined in more detail by means of laws. The Constitutional Court clarified the constitutional powers of the Constitutional Court and the Administrative Court, among which the Constitution framers divided the competence to control the legal acts of the executive-administrative branch of power, and emphasised that the type of legal protection is dependent on the nature of the relevant legal act and its content. It concluded that the Constitution does not determine the competence of (regular) courts to review the constitutionality and legality of implementing regulations and general acts of local communities or the power to abrogate or annul such acts in the event of their inconsistency with the Constitution or laws. In accordance with the current constitutional order, the Constitutional Court is the only court that, as the guardian of constitutionality and legality, may intervene in laws, implementing regulations, and other general legal acts upon the request of privileged applicants or the petition of anyone who demonstrates legal interest. The challenged statutory regulation, which granted the same powers to the administrative judiciary, was therefore inconsistent with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court also determined the manner of the implementation of its decision. It required the Administrative Court and the Supreme Court to decide on lawsuits and legal remedies lodged on the basis of Article 58 of the SPA-2 within three months following the publication of this Decision in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia. The Constitutional Court enabled claimants under the first and second indents of the third paragraph of Article 58 of the SPA-2 to lodge a petition to initiate proceedings for a review of the constitutionality and legality of a spatial planning document in accordance with the Constitutional Court Act and within the time limits and subject to the conditions set out in the Constitutional Court Decision.