Europejskiego Trybunału Praw Człowieka
z dnia 10 września 2019 r.
Application no. 73254/10
Roman Myronovych SALYATYTSKYY
The European Court of Human Rights (Fifth Section), sitting on 10 September 2019 as a Committee composed of:
Síofra O'Leary, President,
Lado Chanturia, judges,
and Milan Blaško, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 1 December 2010,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
1. The applicant, Mr Roman Myronovych Salyatytskyy, is a Ukrainian national, who was born in 1964 and lives in Ternopil.
2. The facts of the case, as submitted by the applicant, may be summarised as follows.
3. In October 2006 the applicant purchased fourteen plots of land from fourteen different individuals, who had obtained that land from the State through a privatisation scheme several days earlier, for the purpose of gardening.
4. On an unspecified date the applicant instituted fourteen separate sets of civil proceedings against those individuals before the Kirovskyy District Court in Crimea ("the KDC"), alleging that they had evaded concluding the sales contracts in accordance with the law and seeking an acknowledgment of his title to the land. In the course of the proceedings the individuals concerned confirmed in writing that they had sold the land to the applicant and that they had failed to formalise the transfers.
5. On 13 March 2007 the KDC delivered fourteen judgments allowing the applicant's claims and holding that he had title to the land in question.
6. No application of intent to appeal against those judgments was lodged within the ten-day period provided for in Article 294 § 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 2004, as worded at the material time.
7. Subsequently, on the basis of the judgments of 13 March 2007 the local authorities registered the applicant's title to the land.
8. On 4 February 2010 the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor, acting on behalf of the State and relying, among others, on Article 45 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 2004 and section 37 of the Prosecution Service Act of 5 July 1991 empowering a prosecutor to intervene in a civil case at any stage of proceedings, irrespective of whether he or she had taken part in any previous stage, in order to protect inter alia State interests, lodged fourteen almost identical applications with the Crimea Court of Appeal ("the CCA"), stating his intent to challenge the judgments of 13 March 2007 on appeal and requesting an extension of the relevant time-limit. He argued that he had found out about those judgments only in February 2010 when carrying out an inquiry into the matter. No further details in that regard were provided in the prosecutor's written submissions.
9. On the same date the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor also lodged with the same court his appeals against the judgments of 13 March 2007, challenging the KDC's factual and legal findings. In particular, according to him, the KDC had failed to take into account the fact that the previous individual owners of the land had acquired it without the State Aviation Administration's consent, which had been required as the land at issue was near to an airfield. The prosecutor also argued that there was no evidence that the previous owners had evaded concluding the sales contracts with the applicant or formalising the transfer and that the applicant had actually pursued his civil action in order to circumvent the required procedure for the transfer of land. On the whole, he contended that the disputed transfer of the land had contravened the relevant regulations.
10. On 9 and 10 February 2010 the CCA informed the applicant that on various dates between 23 February and 3 March 2010 it would conduct public hearings in respect of the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor's applications expressing his intent to lodge an appeal and requesting an extension of the time-limit. The CCA also sent copies of some of the prosecutor's applications to the applicant.
11. On 12 February 2010 the applicant filed his written objections with the CCA, stating that the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor had had no power to lodge an appeal against the judgments of 13 March 2007, as he had not taken part in the original proceedings, and that, in any event, the time-limit for lodging an appeal had expired. He also asked the CCA to send him copies of the prosecutor's appeals.
12. On an unspecified date copies of the prosecutor's appeals were sent to the applicant.
13. By fourteen decisions delivered on various dates between 23 February and 3 March 2010, which were not amenable to appeal, the CCA granted the prosecutor's request for an extension of the time-limit to lodge the appeals, holding that he had missed the time-limit for "justifiable reasons". While in some of the decisions the CCA reproduced the prosecutor's arguments as contained in his appeals, in the majority of the decisions concerned it stated that, because the prosecutor had not taken part in the original proceedings and at the time had not been provided with copies of the contested judgments, the prosecutor had had "justifiable reasons" for missing the time-limit. The CCA further held that in accordance with section 37 of the Prosecution Service Act of 5 July 1991 and section 1 of the Plenary Supreme Court's Resolution of 24 October 2008 on Judicial Practice in Civil Cases Examined on Appel, the prosecutor had the right to lodge his appeals on behalf of the State against the judgments of 13 March 2007, irrespective of the fact that he had not taken part in the original proceedings.
14. In March 2010 the applicant filed his written objections to the prosecutor's appeals with the CCA, challenging the legal arguments contained therein and stating, among other points, that those arguments had not been supported by any evidence and that the prosecutor had failed to specify what kind of State interests had been at issue in the case.
15. By fourteen judgments delivered between 10 March and 21 April 2010, the CCA allowed the prosecutor's appeals and quashed the judgments of 13 March 2007. It rejected the applicant's original claims, finding that there was no evidence that the applicant and the individuals concerned had concluded de facto sales contracts. Nor was there any evidence that they had ever tried to formalise the transfers of the land in accordance with the relevant procedure. In particular, the relevant regulations were based on the rule that the transfer of land could be legally recognised where it was registered by the State. Thus, according to the CCA, the acknowledgment of the applicant's title by the KDC had contradicted the procedure for formalising transfers of land established by the State and the prosecutor's intervention in the proceedings had been necessary for the protection of that procedure. The CCA considered it unnecessary to examine the prosecutor's arguments that the original transfer of the land by the State to the individuals concerned had been unlawful, as this was outside the subject matter of the dispute before it.
16. In May 2010 the applicant lodged fourteen cassation appeals with the Supreme Court against the judgments of the CCA delivered between 10 March and 21 April 2010. He argued that the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor had had no power to lodge an appeal on behalf of the State, because allegedly the prosecutor had not been sworn in at the time of his appointment to that post; that the prosecutor had failed to specify what kind of State interests had been at issue in the case; that the CCA had unlawfully disregarded the written submissions from the defendants to the original proceedings, which had confirmed that they had failed to formalise the transfers of the disputed land; and that the applicant had registered his title to the land in accordance with the relevant procedure.
17. On various dates between 18 May and 8 September 2010 the Supreme Court rejected thirteen of the applicant's cassation appeals as wholly unsubstantiated, finding no evidence of a violation of procedural or substantive law. No detailed examination of the applicant's arguments was deemed necessary. The applicant's fourteenth cassation appeal was dismissed by a decision of the Supreme Court of 6 August 2010 for his failure to pay the court fees.
18. Neither the applicant nor his lawyer, who represented him in the domestic proceedings, took part in the hearings before the CCA and the Supreme Court. The applicant provided no explanation in that regard. Nor has the applicant informed the Court of any further developments in his case, including as to whether he had consequently lost his title to the land.
19. In his original submissions of 1 December 2010, the applicant complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that he had been deprived of his title to the land at issue even though he had acquired it in accordance with the law and had not violated anyone's rights. The applicant also complained of a violation of Article 6 of the Convention, without providing any further details or arguments in that regard.
20. In his submissions of 23 May 2011, the applicant complained, relying essentially on Article 6 of the Convention, that the CCA had unreasonably extended the time-limit for lodging the prosecutor's appeal without any justifiable grounds.
21. In his submissions of 1 September 2011, he complained, essentially relying on the same provision, that the Kirovskyy District Prosecutor had had no power to intervene in the proceedings on behalf of the State.
22. At the outset, the Court notes that the applicant's complaints under Article 6 of the Convention as raised in his submissions of 1 December 2010 are wholly unsubstantiated, whereas the complaints contained in his submissions of 23 May and 1 September 2011 were lodged more than six months after the domestic proceedings had been terminated by the final decisions of the Supreme Court delivered between 18 May and 8 September 2010 (see paragraphs 17, 19, 20 and 21 above, and Uzhavka v. Ukraine (dec.), no. 68856/13, 16 September 2014, regarding the application of the six-month rule to complaints of unjustified extensions of domestic time–limits).
23. In so far as the applicant complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 about the deprivation of his title to the land in question, the Court finds no issue under that provision in the applicant's case. While it is true that the judgments of the CCA delivered between 10 and 21 April 2010 effectively extinguished the legal basis on which the applicant's title to the land had come into being, the Court notes that the applicant provided no reason why he considered that this had been contrary to the guarantees of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. His submissions under that provision are limited to contesting the domestic courts' factual findings and legal assessment of his action, which submissions the Court does not find to be duly substantiated or persuasive.
24. Even assuming that the applicant's complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 can be read as also including a grievance of procedural nature as part of the broader requirement of lawfulness under that provision (see, for a recent authority, Industrial Financial Consortium Investment Metallurgical Union v. Ukraine, no. 10640/05, §§ 185-86, 26 June 2018, with further references therein), the Court reiterates that not every procedural shortcoming in a case will take an interference with the right of property outside the scope of the "principle of lawfulness" (see Ukraine-Tyumen v. Ukraine, no. 22603/02, § 52, 22 November 2007, and Industrial Financial Consortium Investment Metallurgical Union, cited above, § 196).
25. The Court notes that the applicant did not argue that he had been denied the opportunity effectively to pursue his action before the CCA or the Supreme Court and there is no basis for a finding that the reopened proceedings were flawed to the extent that their outcome could not be accepted (compare and contrast with Sovtransavto Holding v. Ukraine, no. 48553/99, §§ 97-98, ECHR 2002–VII, and Agrokompleks, cited above, §§ 135, 138 and 170). Sovtransavto Holding and Agrokompleks, cited above, are exceptional cases in which the Court has found a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 on account of the unfair manner in which the relevant court proceedings had been conducted, including the "blatant interference" of the State authorities at the highest level in those proceedings. The Court discerns no such situation in the instant case.
26. Finally, the unfavourable outcome of the domestic proceedings did not preclude the applicant from taking steps to formalise the sale of the land at issue in accordance with the relevant procedure. On the whole, the applicant had provided no evidence or persuasive argument that the interference with his right to property had been unlawful or disproportionate.
27. In the light of the foregoing, notwithstanding the fact that the applicant had failed to correctly lodge one of his cassation appeals in accordance with the procedure and that some of his complaints under Article 6 of the Convention were lodged out of time, his application should be rejected as manifestly ill-founded pursuant to Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
Declares the application inadmissible.
Done in English and notified in writing on 3 October 2019.