Court Upholds Annulment of Fine For Ex-President Klaus Over Breaches of Covid Restrictions

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the obligation to wear masks did not apply at the time. Credit: Freepik.

Brno, August 6 (CTK) – 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 ministry must also pay Klaus the costs of the cassation appeal, approximately CZK 4,100.

The Prague Municipal Court’s ruling cancelled the CZK 8,000 fine imposed by the authorities on Klaus for speaking publicly without a respirator in front of the Prague Municipal Hall in 2020. NSS agreed that the decision on the fine was based on a measure that had already been struck down as unlawful by that time.

Reacting to the NSS decision, Vaclav Klaus Institute spokesperson Petr Macinka told CTK on the former president’s behalf that it was “a miracle that reason had prevailed over the state’s efforts to dictate people’s lives”.

“The Health Ministry filed a cassation complaint in this case because even after the decision of the Prague Municipal Court in the case in question, some legal questions related to the finding of misconduct remained unanswered,” Ondrej Jakob, a spokesman for the ministry, told CTK. “The Supreme Administrative Court has now clearly determined the correct procedure to be followed by the administrative authorities not only in this case but also in similar proceedings. The offence proceedings will therefore be definitively terminated.” 

Klaus attended a commemoration of the anniversary of Czechoslovak statehood in front of the Municipal Hall in Prague on 28 October 2020. He gave a speech at the memorial plaque in which he criticised the government’s anti-coronavirus restrictions. He did not wear a respirator to the event, despite the government measures at the time. After footage of the event was published in the media, the police began to investigate the case and subsequently handed it over to the Prague public health office.

Public health officers fined the former president CZK 10,000 for violating the emergency measures. Klaus filed an appeal against the decision, demanding that the proceedings be terminated. However, the public health office upheld its decision. Klaus therefore appealed to the Health Ministry, which rejected his objections but reduced the fine by CZK 2,000.

However, the municipal court ruled that the measure in force at the time, which extended the obligation to wear masks to outdoor areas if the person was closer than two metres to another person, was already repealed as of 21 November 2020.

“NSS agrees with the Municipal Court that both administrative decisions were issued on an illegal basis and that this fact was known to the administrative authorities. Both decisions are therefore unlawful, since it is not possible to legally sanction an act that was committed in violation of an emergency measure that was later annulled by an administrative court as illegal,” said the ruling from NSS.

With its initial ruling, the municipal court annulled both the decision of the Ministry of Health and the previous decision of the public health office. The ministers must therefore reconsider the matter.

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