Supreme Administrative Court Upholds Annulment of Fine Against Former President Vaclav Klaus for Maskless Speech

The Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) upheld the annulment of a fine imposed on former president Vaclav Klaus for speaking publicly without a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic, dismissing an appeal by the Health Ministry against the Prague Municipal Court’s annulment, the NSS website says.

The NSS ruling maintains the decision by the Prague Municipal Court, which canceled the CZK 8,000 fine imposed on Klaus for speaking publicly without a respirator in front of the Prague Municipal Hall in 2020. The court found that the fine was based on a measure that had already been struck down as unlawful at the time of its imposition.

Responding to the NSS decision, Vaclav Klaus Institute spokesperson Petr Macinka conveyed the former president’s sentiments, stating that reason had prevailed over the state’s attempts to dictate people’s lives.

The case originated when Klaus attended a commemoration event in front of the Municipal Hall in Prague on 28 October 2020, where he delivered a speech criticizing the government’s COVID-19 restrictions. Despite government measures requiring mask-wearing at the time, Klaus did not wear a respirator during the event. Subsequently, the police investigated the case and forwarded it to the Prague public health office, which imposed a CZK 10,000 fine on the former president for violating emergency measures.

Klaus appealed the decision and sought termination of the proceedings. Although the Health Ministry reduced the fine by CZK 2,000, the municipal court ruled that the measure in force at the time, mandating masks in outdoor areas if individuals were within two meters of each other, had already been repealed on 21 November 2020.

The NSS agreed with the municipal court’s ruling, emphasizing that the administrative decisions were issued on an illegal basis and known to the administrative authorities. As the emergency measure in question was later annulled by an administrative court as illegal, the NSS deemed both decisions as unlawful.

With the NSS upholding the annulment of the fine, the matter is now required to be reconsidered by the Health Ministry. The court’s ruling not only provides clarity on this particular case but also establishes a correct procedure for administrative authorities in similar proceedings. The decision carries implications for how emergency measures should be enforced and legally sanctioned, underscoring the importance of adhering to the rule of law during extraordinary circumstances.

Article by Prague Forum

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