Courts revoke penalties imposed by sanitary inspection authorities

The Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw repealed the decision of the Sanitary- Epidemiological Station imposing a fine of PLN 5,000 for failure to comply with the obligation to cover the mouth and nose. In the grounds of  judgment, the court indicates that there were no legal basis to impose the obligation under the regulation of the Council of Ministers of April 19, 2020 on the complainant, and, consequently, to punish him for failure to comply with it. Restrictions, orders and bans were imposed on the basis of the Act on the prevention and combating of infections and infectious diseases in humans, while the obligation to undergo medical examinations and the use of other preventive measures and treatments can only be imposed on sick people and on those who are suspected of having the disease. The regulation imposing a general obligation to cover the mouth and nose, introduced by the regulation of the Council of Ministers of April 19, 2020, in the opinion of the Court, goes beyond the statutory delegation and results in a violation of Art. 92 par. 1 of the Polish Constitution. Therefore, this obligation was imposed without a legal basis, and thus the fine imposed by the Sanitary- Epidemiological Station is considered unlawful.

There are more and more similar cases, and provincial administrative courts more frequently repeal the decisions of the authorities. The first similar rulings appeared in the fall of 2020, but now the courts publish written grounds of their judgments and indicate that the orders and restrictions introduced during the pandemic were substantively justified, but the procedure for their implementation resulted in the violation of basic constitutional standards and rights in the field of freedom of economic activity.

Since the beginning of the year, the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw in 21 cases issued judgments annulling or revoking the Sanitary- Epidemiological Station decisions related to the imposition of penalties on those who did not comply with the obligation to cover the mouth and nose, but also for violation of the quarantine obligation or movement restriction.

Similar decisions are also issued by other courts in other cities in Poland, i.a. in Opole or Szczecin, where the courts revoked the sanctions imposed on entrepreneurs in connection with the provision of services during the so-called lockdown.

Therefore, it should be expected that subsequent people that were fined, encouraged by favorable judgments, will question the imposed penalties, which will significantly increase the number of similar cases in administrative courts in Poland.

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