FIRST SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 52854/99 
by Anna Ivanovna RYABYKH 
against Russia

The European Court of Human Rights, sitting on 21 February 2002 as a Chamber composed of

Mr C.L. Rozakis, President
 Mrs F. Tulkens
 Mr G. Bonello
 Mr E. Levits
 Mrs S. Botoucharova
 Mr A. Kovler
 Mrs E. Steiner, judges
and Mr E. Fribergh, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application introduced on 19 August 1999 and registered on 23 November 1999,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Anna Ivanovna Ryabykh, is a Russian national. She was born in 1949 and lives in Ninovka, Belgorod Region, Russia.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

The applicant brought proceedings against the Novooskolskiy Branch of the Savings Bank of Russia, the Savings Bank of Russia (Сберегательный банк Российской Федерации) and the State. She claimed that her personal savings, which she had deposited with the bank in 1991, had significantly dropped following economic reforms, and that the State had not properly discharged its obligation to revalue the deposits in the Savings Bank in order to offset the effects of inflation, even though it had assumed that obligation under the Law on Revaluation and Protection of the Savings of Citizens of the Russian Federation enacted on 10 May 1995 (Федеральный закон «О восстановлении и защите сбережений граждан Российской Федерации», hereinafter – “Savings Act”).

On 30 December 1997 Judge Lebedinskaya of the Novooskolskiy District Court of the Belgorod Region (Новооскольский районный суд Белгородской области) found in the applicant’s favour and awarded her 129,544,1061 roubles (RUR) payable by the State treasury. The court rejected the State’s main defence that the reimbursement scheme under the Savings Act could not be implemented for practical reasons, no special secondary legislation having been passed. It found that it was the State’s own fault that no secondary legislation had been passed and that since the Savings Act recognised the guaranteed deposits as the State’s internal debt, the ordinary civil rules on late payment were applicable.

On 28 February 1998 that decision was set aside on appeal by the Belgorod Regional Court (Белгородский областной суд).

On 13 April 1998 the President of the Belgorod Regional Court, Judge Zazdravnykh, and later, on 24 April 1998, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Belgorod Region refused the applicant’s petitions for supervisory review of the appeal judgment.

After a fresh examination of the case on 8 June 1998 the Novooskolskiy District Court gave a judgment similar to the one of 30 December 1997. The award, however, was readjusted to RUR 133,963.70.

No appeal was lodged against the judgment and it became final ten days later.

On 19 January 1999 enforcement proceedings were commenced.

On an unspecified date in 1999, while the enforcement proceedings were in progress, the President of the Belgorod Regional Court lodged an application for supervisory review (протест в порядке надзора) of the judgment of 8 June 1998.

The application was examined on 19 March 1999 by the Presidium of the Belgorod Regional Court under the presidency of Judge Zazdravnykh. Having accepted the reasons contained in the application, the Presidium set aside the judgment of 8 June 1998 and substituted its own decision dismissing the applicant’s case altogether. The applicant was not informed that the application for supervisory review had been lodged or invited to attend the hearing before the Presidium.

On 17 June 1999 the enforcement proceedings were discontinued.

On 4 January 2001 a deputy president of the Supreme Court of Russia lodged an application for supervisory review of the decision of the Presidium of 19 March 1999.

On 22 January 2001 the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court granted the application. It found that the Presidium had given valid reasons for setting aside the judgment of 8 June 1998, but ruled that the applicant’s case could not have been dismissed in full, as that would deprive her of her entitlement to reimbursement of the money she had deposited with the Savings Bank. It was also acknowledged that the applicant’s right to be informed that her case was reviewed by the Presidium had not been respected.

On 4 June 2001, after a new examination of the case, the Novooskolskiy District Court delivered a new judgment in the applicant’s favour. The award included RUR 188,724 as compensation for devaluation and RUR 60,000 by way of non-pecuniary damages. The court stated that the Government’s systematic delaying of its obligation to revalue the applicant’s savings caused moral suffering and anguish.

The judgment was overturned as a whole on appeal on 14 August 2001 and the case was remitted for re-examination.

B.  Relevant domestic law and practice

Under the rules of civil procedure (the principal source of which is the Code of Civil Procedure of 1964), if an appeal is lodged against a judgment of a first-instance court, that judgment will become final if it is upheld by the appellate court (кассационная инстанция):

Article 208

“Court judgments shall become legally binding on the expiration of the time-limit for lodging a cassation appeal if no such appeal has been lodged. If the judgment is not quashed following a cassation appeal, it shall become legally binding when the higher court delivers its decision...”

The only further means of recourse is the special supervisory-review procedure that enables the courts to reopen final judgments (пересмотр в порядке судебного надзора):

Article 319

“Final judgments, decisions and rulings of all Russian courts shall be amenable to supervisory review on an application lodged by officials listed in Article 320 of the Code.”

The power of officials to lodge an application (протест) depends on their rank and territorial jurisdiction:

Article 320

“Applications may be lodged by:

1.  The Prosecutor General – against judgments, decisions and rulings of any court;

2.  The President of the Supreme Court – against rulings of the Presidium of the Supreme Court and judgments and decisions of the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court acting as a court of first instance;

3.  Deputy Prosecutors General – against judgments, decisions and rulings of any court other than rulings of the Presidium of the Supreme Court;

4.  Vice-Presidents of the Supreme Court – against judgments and decisions of the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court acting as a court of first instance;

5.  The Prosecutor General, Deputy Prosecutor General, the President and Vice-Presidents of the Supreme Court – against judgments, decisions and rulings of any court other than rulings of the Presidium of the Supreme Court;

6.  The President of the Supreme Court of an autonomous republic, regional court, city court, court of an autonomous region or court of an autonomous district, the Public Prosecutor of an autonomous republic, region, city, autonomous region or an autonomous district – against judgments and decisions of district (city) people’s courts and against decisions of civil chambers of, respectively, the Supreme Court of an autonomous republic, regional court, city court, court of an autonomous region or court of an autonomous district that examined the case on appeal.”

In practice, most applications for supervisory review are lodged by the relevant officials if they are satisfied by, for example petitions received from dissatisfied litigants, that a case has been decided without due regard to the applicable laws or that there have been substantial procedural irregularities.

It should be noted that the power to lodge such applications is discretionary, that is to say it is solely for the official concerned to decide whether or not a particular case warrants supervisory review.

Under Article 322 officials listed in Article 320 who consider that a case warrants closer examination may, provided certain conditions are complied with, obtain the case-file in order to establish whether good grounds for lodging an application exist.

Article 323 of the Code empowers the relevant officials to stay the execution of the judgment, decision or ruling concerned until the supervisory-review proceedings are completed.

Article 324 of the Code provides that the official concerned shall draft the application and forward it – in sufficient copies for each of the parties – and the case-file to the relevant court. The application shall be made in the number of copies corresponding to the number of litigants.

According to Article 325:

“The parties... shall be served copies of the application. If circumstances so require, the parties... shall be informed of the time and place of the hearing.

The copies of the application shall be served to the parties by the court [examining the application]. The court shall give the parties sufficient time before the hearing to submit a written reply to the application and any additional material.”

By Article 328 of the Code proceedings on an application for supervisory review will normally be oral and the parties are invited to make comments once the judge concerned has reported to the court.

Courts hearing applications for supervisory review (суды, рассматривающие дела по протестам в порядке надзора) have extensive jurisdiction in respect of final judgments:

Article 329

“The court that examines an application for supervisory review may:

1.  uphold the judgment, decision or ruling and dismiss the application;

2.  quash all or part of the judgment, decision or ruling as a whole or in part and order a fresh examination of the case at first or cassation instance;

3.  quash all or part of the judgment, decision or ruling as a whole or in part and terminate the proceedings or leave the claim undecided;

4.  uphold any of the previous judgments, decisions or rulings in the case;

5.  quash or vary the judgment of the court of first or cassation instance or if a court that has carried out supervisory review instance and deliver a new judgment without remitting the case for re-examination if substantive laws have been erroneously construed and applied.”

There is no time-limit under the legislation for lodging an application for supervisory review, and in principle such applications may be lodged at any time after a judgment has become final.

COMPLAINTS

1.  The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that her right to a fair trial was breached when the Presidium of the Belgorod Regional Court quashed the judgment of 8 June 1998, which had become final and was in the process of being enforced. She adds that she was not informed that the application for supervisory review had been lodged, and not invited to attend the hearing before the Presidium. She did not learn of the Presidium’s decision until five months after it had been given.

2.  The applicant further complains under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention about the effect the inflation produced on her savings and about the State’s failure to compensate her in this respect. The cancellation of the judgment in her favour also infringed the same Convention provision.

THE LAW

1.  The applicant complains under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention that the judgment of 8 June 1998 was quashed following the supervisory review, and that the procedure before the Presidium was “unfair”. Article 6 § 1, insofar as relevant, reads as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal...”

The Government submit that since the supervisory review by the Supreme Court on 22 January 2001 resulted in the applicant’s action for the revaluation of her savings being re-examined on the merits, the State has taken effective measures to restore and protect the applicant’s rights under the Convention. The Government argue that the applicant’s case has not been finally determined at the national level and that the application can therefore not be examined by the Court.

The applicant requests that her application should proceed as she is sceptical about the prospects of success on a fresh examination of the case.

The Court notes that the complaint under Article 6 § 1 concerns the quashing of an earlier judgment in the applicant’s favour. The issue is whether such a procedure permitting that a final judgment is quashed could be considered compatible with Article 6 and, in particular, whether the principle of legal certainty was thereby infringed (see Brumărescu v. Romania [GC], no. 28342/95, § 62, 28 October 1999).

It is not clear, however, how the fact that the decision of the Presidium was subsequently quashed on a further application for supervisory review could be said to improve legal certainty in the applicant’s case and this issue is not affected by the proceedings which are pending at the national level.

The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that this issue raises serious questions of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. The Court concludes therefore that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. No other ground for declaring it inadmissible has been established.

2.  The applicant further complains about the devaluation of her savings as a result of the inflation and that the supervisory review of her case and the cancellation of the judgment in her favour infringed Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, which reads as follows:

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”

For the reasons indicated above, the Court does not agree with the Government’s submission that this complaint is premature.

The applicant’s complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention is that by quashing the final judgment in the applicant’s favour of 8 June 1998 the Belgorod Regional Court deprived her of her possessions or at least interfered with her right to peaceful enjoyment thereof (see the above cited Brumărescu judgment, §§ 70, 73 and 77).

The Court considers, in the light of the above and the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. The Court concludes therefore that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. No other ground for declaring it inadmissible has been established.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the application admissible, without prejudicing the merits of the case.

Erik Fribergh Christos Rozakis 
 Registrar President

1.  The amount is indicated without regard to the denomination of 1998. In accordance with the Presidential Decree “on the Modification of Face Value of Russian Currency and Standards of Value” of 4 August 1997, 1,000 “old” roubles became 1 “new” rouble as of 1 January 1998.


RYABYKH v. RUSSIA DECISION


RYABYKH v. RUSSIA DECISION