The Supreme Court on Monday rejected President Nicos Anastasiades’ appeal against parliament’s right to amend or reject government proposals on matters strictly within the remit of the executive branch of government, on grounds that it was filed after the period allowed by the Constitution to challenge legislation.
Nine Supreme Court judges – from the 13-man bench – voted to reject the appeal, while four voted to sustain it.
Seven of the nine judges found that any conflict of powers or jurisdiction arose on March 27, 2015, when parliament passed a law stripping the Labour minister of the right to set shops’ working-hours policy by ministerial decree, passing this right to the cabinet, in order to decide on the matter by means of issuing regulations, which then had to be approved by parliament.
The appeal had been submitted by Attorney-general Costas Clerides on December 31, after parliament voted to reject a government proposal to liberalise shops’ working hours.
But, the Surpeme Court said, the period between the time when the law was passed and the time when the appeal was filed – almost nine months later – far exceeded the 30-day window allowed to the executive to challenge parliamentary decisions.
“Our decision with regard to the untimely filing of the appeal renders any further consideration of issues raised purely academic and legally undesirable,” the Supreme Court said.
In December last year, parliament rejected the government’s proposed regulations over shops’ working hours, ignoring a prior Supreme Court ruling that the House of Representatives has no say over the issue, which noted that the decision was exclusively executive in nature, and that allowing it to interfere with the government’s proposal – either by amending or rejecting it – would violate the principle of separation of powers.
In its appeal, the government asked that the Supreme Court reaffirm that parliament’s rejection of the government’s regulation constitutes a violation of the principle of separation of powers, and that the proposed regulations may come into force, irrespective of any parliamentary decision to the contrary.
Parliament’s decision to ignore the Supreme Court and reject the government’s proposal triggered an old law from 2006 regulating shops’ working hours, which did not allow shops to work on Sundays. The 2006 law came into force on January 1, 2016.
But in the ruling of an appeal filed by C.A. Papaellinas Ltd against a fine imposed by the government for opening its Alpha-Mega supermarket on a Sunday, issued earlier this month, the Nicosia District court said the 2006 law was unconstitutional, thus leaving the issue completely unregulated.
Thus, until such time as new regulation is introduced, shops have no limitation on operating hours.
“Right now, there are no regulations, there are no decrees, there are no limitations, and thus anyone can do as they please,” parliament’s lawyer Alecos Markides told reporters after the ruling.
“The situation requires a lot of consideration – I can’t determine what can and cannot be done right now. But the best of all the available options is for parliament to find a way to come to an agreement with the president and the cabinet, in my opinion.”