Czech Constitutional Court upholds requirement for supermarket chains to donate to food banks
Big chain supermarkets in the Czech Republic must continue to provide some of their unsold goods free of charge to food banks. The Czech Senators who filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court asking that the condition be abolished because they consider it to be a forced gift or a specific kind of tax on groceries did not convince the justices to declare the condition unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court has found that the requirement is not an unconstitutional violation of the supermarkets' ownership rights or right to do business, but ruled that the measure is part of international attempts to limit food waste, reduce the production of garbage, save the environment, and aid those who are socially vulnerable. Judge-Rapporteur Jan Filip said the aim of the law is legitimate.
Groceries that would otherwise end up as waste are instead now being used to aid people in need, such as homeless persons or single mothers. Filip rejected the Senators' comparison of the requirement to expropriation.
The measure does not concern real estate, but goods that their owners want to sell at a profit, and if they fail to do so, they must dispose of them properly in any event, which also incurs costs. "Goods are not intended to be hoarded in a warehouse somewhere like Harpagon," Filip said.
The judge's reference was to the protagonist in the play "The Miser" by Moliére (1622-1673). The Senators' motion to abolish the requirement had been waiting for a decision since mid-2016.
The motion was filed by 25 members of the upper chamber, represented by Czech Senator Ivo Valenta (for the "Privateers" - Soukromníky party), who is also a co-owner of the firm that administers the disinformation server Parlamentní listy. The Senators said they considered the amendment to the law on groceries and tobacco products to be a violation of the rights of supermarket chains and were also bothered by the CZK 10 million [EUR 390 000] fine established by law for failure to meet this obligation.
The amendment affects businesses operating in facilities with a square area of 400 meters or more. The condition specifically concerns groceries that fail to fulfill general requirements - for example, their packaging is deformed or incorrectly labeled - but that are still safe to consume.
According to the amendment, the goods are meant to be donated to nonprofit organizations that collect, store and distribute groceries for charity and humanitarian purposes. The Senators' motion alleged the law has essentially introduced "forced" participation in charity.
The Senators compared the obligation to a "forced" gift or to the Nazi "Aryanization" of Jewish property or the Communist collectivization of rural land. The state, according to the Senators, should not be transferring the costs of its social policy onto this relatively small, specific group of people who do business with food.
"Any state policy must be paid for by the state with public money," the Senators wrote in their motion. The Constitutional Court justices, however, do not believe the requirement is comparable to state terror.
The measure is in the interest of all of society and the general welfare, the court found. According to the attorney for the Senators, Zdeňek Koudelka, by making such an argument the state is regressing to its pre-1989 philosophy.
"For the first time here, the state is commanding owners to give their property to somebody else," Koudelka said. The criticized provision made it into the law on the basis of an amendment proposed by the lower house.
That bill was approved in 2016 by the Senate and signed by the President. Critics of the law were bothered by the fact that retailers would not be able to donate the groceries according to their own preferences, for example, to children's homes or zoos.
Then-Agriculture Minister Marian Jurečka (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) defended the amendment by explaining it as necessary to combating food waste. When the Constitutional Court judgment was announced last week, Jurečka tweeted that the measure has proven meaningful, as waste is being reduced and more than 100 000 people have been aided by the donations.
- Czech Constitutional Court to review controversial local ordinance about sitting in public
- Czech Constitutional Court receives complaint about election campaign, proposals for "fertilization" of "gypsies" recur in local media discussion
- Czech Constitutional Court president: Ethnic and national self-centeredness and xenophobia are a threat to Europe
- Czech Constitutional Court rejects complaint from neo-Nazi convicted of 2012 arson
- Czech Republic: Romani-owned business distributes clothing, food and hygiene supplies to the needy in Teplice
- Slovakia: Romani businessman stopped from distributing food to the homeless by authorities
- Slovakia: Entrepreneur organizes food distribution to the needy
- Czech media retract unverified article about Romani quintuplets and organic food
- Czech Republic: Roma respond to accusations of food waste
- Czech Republic: Fans of neo-Nazi band Ortel attack foreign-born food servers
- Czech mother complains about "gypsy food" in school cafeteria, TV Nova says parents are "revolting"
- Czech Senate nominates former Human Rights Commissioner for Deputy Ombudswoman role
- Romani community member Cyril Koky will run for Czech Senate as a Pirate in the Kolín precinct
- Slovak Fascists want to change laws about online media to prevent libel
- Czech Republic's governing party tries to spin real estate market fluctuation as proof of its "success" at tackling ghettoes
- Open Letter: Conveners of Holocaust commemoration are too quiet after politician disgraced it
- Czech descendants of WWII resistance fighters demand senator resign over speech at Holocaust memorial
- Indebted minors could enjoy easier conditions for relief if Czech amendment passes
- Czech lower house to elect new Deputy Public Defender of Rights
- Monika Mihaličková to the Czech Senate: Election laws must not allow the horrors of the Holocaust to repeat
- Czech Constitutional Court rejects complaint about hateful election campaigns, but agrees they were unethical
- Czech Constitutional Court says father's anonymous, racist e-mail about a non-white doll at nursery school was blackmail
- Czech Education Minister disagrees with free lunches for all primary schoolchildren