Individual Application 55/19
Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding No Violation of the Right to Hold Meetings and Demonstration Marches due to Imposition of an Administrative Fine
On 18 April 2019, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found no violation of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches safeguarded by Article 34 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by Güral Doğan (no. 2015/7453).
A number of persons, including the applicant, held a demonstration in protest of the subcontracting system.
They stopped the traffic by chaining themselves to the mobile electronic system integration (MOBESE) poles as well as pulling a chain across the road. During the demonstration, an ambulance passing by with its siren on had to wait for three minutes. It was subsequently allowed to pass under the chain.
After the security officers arrived at the scene with an iron cutting knife, the demonstrators untied the chain across the road and hence the road was completely opened to traffic. There is no information in the case file that the demonstrators had received a prior authorization from the administration to hold a demonstration.
Afterwards, the applicant was imposed an administrative fine on the ground that he had stopped the traffic during the demonstration. The applicant’s subsequent appeal against this fine was rejected by the Magistrate Judge with no right of appeal.
The Applicant’s Allegations
The applicant maintained that his right to hold meetings and demonstration marches had been violated due to imposition of an administrative fine on him, stating that he had not taken part in the chaining protest.
The Court’s Assessment
It has been examined whether the administrative fine imposed on the applicant for impeding the traffic flow during the demonstration was in compliance with the requirements of a democratic society.
Although the applicant claimed that he had not taken part in the chaining protest, the first instance court relied on the report on the footages taken during the demonstration. Given the applicant’s statements and the evidence he adduced, there has been no reason to depart from the conclusion of the court. Therefore, an assessment has been made only as to whether the administrative fine imposed on the applicant was in breach of his right to hold meetings and demonstration marches.
Actions such as stopping the flow of traffic for a short time as well as hindering or jeopardizing it maybe, to a certain extent, a natural consequence of the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstrating marches. However, there is an obvious difference between the occasional disruption of the traffic flow due to a peaceful meeting and the direct blocking of the road, in terms of the protection of the rights of others. The applicant’s action had had an unreasonable effect on the rights of others, which cannot be regarded as a natural consequence of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches.
As the action resorted to had put the third parties in a position to make a choice between continuing to drive, thereby risking the lives of themselves and the protesters, and changing their direction, it had left no alternative for them but to choose the latter. As a result, it is clear that the said action, which had taken place on one of the main arterial roads, had imposed a burden on the third parties that should not have had to bear in a democratic society.
Accordingly, such an action cannot avail of the same protection as in the cases where political views or issues attracting public opinion are raised or a peaceful demonstration is held. Although the duration of the protest had been short, regard being had to the place and manner of the action, it went beyond its purpose and directly prevented others from exercising their rights. Therefore, the interference with the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches by means of imposition of a fine served a pressing social need.
It has been understood that the inferior court struck a fair balance between the conflicting rights in order to ensure the public order and that the said balance was not disturbed to the detriment of the applicant. Therefore, the alleged interference had been in conformity with the requirements of the democratic order of the society.
Consequently, the Constitutional Court has found no violation of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches, which is safeguarded by Article 34 of the Constitution.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.