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Omission 'unconstitutional': lawyer

LAWYER Ivan Trimaj is the former head of the legislation department of the President's Office (1993-1998). Before that, he was a judge of the Czechoslovak Federal Constitutional Court
in 1992.
He told The Slovak Spectator that Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška's actions relating to the social insurance act were against the law.

LAWYER Ivan Trimaj is the former head of the legislation department of the President's Office (1993-1998). Before that, he was a judge of the Czechoslovak Federal Constitutional Court

in 1992.

He told The Slovak Spectator that Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška's actions relating to the social insurance act were against the law.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What do you think about Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška (Smer) ordering the parliamentary legislation department to publish the amended law on social insurance on the parliamentary website without the amendment from opposition MP Iveta Radičová?

Ivan Trimaj (IT): This kind of omission of an amendment - regardless of whether it is good or bad, or even absurd - is illegal and unconstitutional. As soon as amendments are voted on with a positive result - i.e. they are approved - they become a part of the law, regardless of whether they should have been voted on.

TSS: Pavol Paška is the speaker of parliament and signs laws. Can't he omit the contradictory wordings of amendments from the law? He claims that he is entitled to do so by the authority of his position.

IT:No. It is not possible that Mr. Paška as an individual decides whether 150 MPs erred or not. This is a matter for the 150 MPs, and not the speaker or his deputy. And it is by no means a matter for the Legislation Department of Parliament. But the legislation department did what it was told to do. If I was ordered to do so, I probably would not do it.

These are very clear issues, regardless of who the current speaker of parliament is. This is a common procedure in every parliament that calls itself a parliament.

TSS: Paška pleaded there is no paragraph in the legal code instructing him what to do in a situation like this, and also no paragraph prohibiting him from doing this.

IT:Well, someone could make the same argument if he said he could not find a paragraph in the law book prohibiting him from publishing a menu instead of the bill that was approved. Really, such a paragraph does not exist - but no one would ever think of looking for it. The constitution and the parliamentary law state who submits the bills, how they should be submitted, how they should be discussed, and how they should be voted on. As soon as they have been voted on favourably, they are approved, and must be presented to the president.

TSS: So then how can the wording of a law that cannot be executed, which has been approved by parliament, be corrected?

IT:It can be corrected. Because in Slovakia, a law approved by parliament must be signed not only by the speaker, but also by the president. Then the latter may simply not sign it, so it has to be returned to parliament for discussion; or the Constitutional Court can correct the erroneous law.

TSS: Did anything like this happen when you worked in the President's Office?

IT: Yes, about 10 years ago. I do not remember the details any more, but it concerned the Criminal Law. I found out, and we agreed on the president vetoing the law. And so it happened.

TSS: So now it is not a precedent any more?

IT: It is a precedent, as that case in the past was not about two contradictory provisions. The nonsense was of a different kind, a different error. But basically, it is the same. When something has been approved, and is approved incorrectly, it has to be corrected by a legitimate constitutional procedure.

TSS: So you do not think that the whole controversy was invented by the opposition?

IT: Definitely not. In my opinion, the whole controversy was caused by the fact that 10 years ago, a bill was not passed to the Parliamentary Law, coincidentally my bill. According to this bill, before the final vote - if several amendments are submitted - each MP has to have a draft of this bill or the amendment on his or her desk. And then everyone would be able to see if there is nonsense, some contradictory provisions, or something not executable in the bill. It happens sometimes in parliament that MPs do not really know what has been approved, or that nonsense has been approved.

TSS: Are you sure that a similar amendment to the Parliamentary Law would prevent such things from happening?

IT: More importantly, our MPs think that their wages are too small for them to stay at work Friday afternoon, or to meet one more time on Monday or Tuesday next week. The result is that on Friday at noon, the voting is done too hastily: "Let's vote on it so we can leave; otherwise we are going to miss the train, the plane, etc."

TSS: You do not have the best opinion about parliament.

IT: Well, in parliament, they do not decide about whether someone will have this haircut or another one. Laws are decided there. And people who decide on them are paid well for their work. I do not envy them. I was offered to enter politics and I refused. But once they enter the politics - and it was their free decision - they should at least make their decisions properly, at least from a procedural point of view.

TSS: So what do you think - how did the process of approving this amendment take place?

IT: I do not know how it happened. Luckily, I was not there. I prefer to watch comedy shows in the theatre, not in parliament. That is why I do not go to Castle Hill (the parliament building). I just know from the media that a bill was submitted, which was voted on. And thus, Paška and his deputy Miroslav Číž (Smer) and MP Jana Vaľová (Smer) lost any possibility to influence it. It has become part of the law.

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