Case 2004-178

No. 3046. C. C., n°2004-178, 3 November 2004
Download Judgment: French Flemish
Country: Belgium
Region: Europe
Year: 2004
Court: Constitutional Court [Court Constiutionelle]
Health Topics: Tobacco
Human Rights: Freedom from discrimination
Tags: Tobacco control, Tobacco regulation

The applicant was sentenced for illegal distribution of tobacco products using a vending machine. A  Royal Decree stated that tobacco products could only be sold in vending machines if the machine was placed in an area where tobacco products were sold in a traditional manner and accessible to consumers.  At the request of the applicant, the appellate court referred to the Constitutional Court the question of whether the 1977 law aimed at protecting consumer health granted overly-extensive powers to the Crown, by authorizing it to interfere with the sale and distribution of tobacco and impose unequal rules on tobacco vendors.

The Court found it could not answer the question posed, holding it did not have the authority to determine whether powers granted to the Crown in the 1977 law were too extensive. No law or provision conferred authority on the Constitutional Court to decide, preliminarily, whether the Crown should have authority to establish a difference in treatment between groups. The Court held it could only assess whether unequal treatment between groups was in accordance with legislative norms. . Whether or nor not Crown authority was too extensive should be determined with the input of democratically elected representatives, as per the Constitution.

“Une disposition législative qui charge une autorité administrative de prendre une mesure qui ne relève pas de sa compétence peut violer le principe d’égalité en ce qu’elle prive ainsi une catégorie de personnes de l’intervention d’une assemblée démocratiquement élue, prévue par la Constitution ou la loi spéciale.”- (B.4.2.)

“A legislative provision which charges an administrative authority to take a measure that is not within its competence may violate the principle of equality under the Constitution or special law by  depriving the intervention of a democratically elected assembly.”- (B.4.2.)

“La Cour ne peut se prononcer sur le caractère justifié d’une différence de traitement au regard des articles 10 et 11 de la Constitution que si elle est imputable à une norme législative. Ni l’article 26, § 1er, de la loi spéciale du 6 janvier 1989 ni aucune autre disposition constitutionnelle ou législative ne confère à la Cour le pouvoir de statuer, à titre préjudiciel, sur la question de savoir si un arrêté royal est compatible ou non avec les articles 10 et 11 de la Constitution.”- (B.3.)

“The Court can only rule on the justification of a difference in treatment under Article 10 and 11 of the Constitution, if  [the difference] is attributable to a legislative norm. Neither Article 26, s.1, of the Special Law of January 6, 1989 nor any other constitutional or statutory provision gives the Court the power to decide, preliminarily, on the question whether the Royal Decree is compatible or not with Articles 10 and 11 of the Constitution.”- (B.3.)

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