In a recent case in which the writer was involved the country's administrative court confirmed the right of the citizens to apply to the authorities with their requests and the corresponding duty of the authorities to reply to these requests. The said right and corresponding duty are set out in Article 29 of the Cyprus Constitution which sets a time limit of 30 days within which the authorities must provide their reply.
The facts of the case were as follows:
- The applicants were members of a provident fund of a now defunct company. The provident fund required the appointment of an administrative committee in order for its assets to be distributed to its beneficiaries. However, an underlying dispute between ex-employees of the company as to who are the beneficiaries of the fund rendered it impossible for such administrative committee to be appointed.
- The applicants therefore addressed a letter to the relevant public authority (the Ministry of Labour) asking it to appoint an administrative committee for the Fund in order for the deadlock to be resolved.
- The Ministry sent a written reply to the Applicants with which in effect it neither acceded nor rejected this request. Instead, the Ministry merely informed the applicants that it was not clear to it as to whether it had the right to appoint such a Committee and that it had asked for legal advice on the matter from the Attorney General.
In view of the above facts the Applicants filed a recourse at the Administrative Court asking the Court to order the Ministry to provide the Applicants with a substantive reply to their request. The Ministry from its part contended that the reply that it had already given did constitute a valid response for the purposes of the law and that, therefore, the recourse lacked subject matter.
In its judgment the court reiterated the importance of the constitutional right of citizens to apply to the government authorities. The Court stressed that this was an intrinsic facet of the requirement for sound administration. In the case at hand the Court agreed that the reply the Ministry had given was vague and did not contain a definitive answer to the Applicants' request. The Ministry was therefore ordered to cure the defect and to reply to the Applicants in a manner consistent with the requirements of the law.
Originally Published by Michael Kyprianou, January 2021
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