Putting it to the test Russia’s Constitutional Court agrees to hear challenge against state-imposed coronavirus self-isolation measures
Russia’s Constitutional Court has agreed to weigh in on the legality of governors’ self-isolation orders during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the newspaper Kommersant, the high court will hear a lawsuit from the town of Protvino against measures imposed by Moscow Regional Governor Andrey Vorobyov. The case sets up a legal review of the restrictions that were central to how Russia tackled the spread of coronavirus earlier this year, just as the country confronts what appears to be a second wave of mass infections.
In April 2020, the local authorities in Russia’s capital and the surrounding region banned residents from going outside, except to take out the trash, walk the dog, go to work, or go shopping for essentials (including pharmaceuticals). Violators were subject to fines as high as 30,000 rubles ($375).
The case in Protvino involves a local man named Sergey Pantyukhov, who violated the terms of self-isolation by leaving his home “unjustifiably.” He did not contest the charges, but the city court declined to fine him, ruling that Article 27 of Russia’s Constitution guarantees all persons the right to free travel. The court found that Governor Vorobyov lacks the authority to restrict this right.
In its appeal to the Constitutional Court, Protvino’s city court also cited Vladimir Putin’s executive order on April 2, 2020, where the president instructed governors to “establish a special procedure for the movement of persons and means of transportation” “without restricting citizens’ rights and freedoms.”
Spokespeople for Governor Vorobyov told the radio station Govorit Moskva that his office doesn’t expect a problem from the Constitutional Court, arguing that the region’s self-isolation measures fall within the government’s authority without violating the rights or legitimate interests of citizens and businesses.
The restrictions introduced earlier this year in the Moscow region (measures that could return soon, as Russia confronts a second wave of coronavirus infections) were also imposed in other areas across the country. Courts at various levels of Russia’s judiciary have tried to contest the legality of state-imposed self-isolation, but past lawsuits have either stalled or fizzled out completely. For example, in August 2020, a higher court closed a case brought by several Moscow municipal deputies against Mayor Sergey Sobyanin and the Moscow City Duma. The deputies had wanted to challenge an administrative statute introduced to allow the city to use video cameras and geolocation to fine residents for violating self-isolation.
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