The case of TV-6 and the crisis of the Russian court system.
The decision of the Presidium of the Supreme arbitral court concerning the case of the liquidation of the TV company TV-6 witnesses of the profound crisis of the entire court system of the Russian Federation.
We shall remind the reader that the demand to liquidate the TV company was put out the last summer by one of the shareholders, the pension fund Lukoyl-Garant, because the enterprise was unprofitable during 1999-2000. The Moscow arbitral court satisfied the claim, but the superior instance, the Moscow regional arbitral court cancelled this decision on 29 December 2001 and returned the case for reconsidering. Meanwhile, the norm of the Civil Code, basing on which the first instance court satisfied the claim, was abolished since 1 January 2002. Now the negative active as such in the past may not be a formal reason for the liquidation. This, certainly, deprived the claimant of any hope to win the process.
However, the common court procedure was hastily interrupted by Eduard Renov, the chairman of the Supreme arbitral court. He protested against the decision of the regional court, and this protest was satisfied as hastily (on 11 January) by the Presidium of the Supreme arbitral court. Thus, the case of TV-6 has been resolved not only contrary to the common sense (the company became profitable in 2001), but, in fact, according to already cancelled legal norm. The obvious dependence of this decision on considerations that are external with respect to the right returns us to the old good legal practices of the Soviet times.
The absurd behavior of the claimant can be easily explained. Lukoyl is notorious by its will and wish to be a media-killer: let us recollect the events of 1997, when the editorial board of the newspaper Izvestiya, whose publications angered the then prime minister, was replaced. The genuine reason of persecuting the TV company is, rather, in the idee fixe of some top Kremlin authorities: to oust from the informational space Boris Berezovskiy, who is a businessman and politician disagreeable to them. Some of them even do not try to conceal that the debacle of TV-6 is caused by the wish to wipe out any trace of the opposition oligarch on the Russian political scene.
This intention itself witnesses that the freedom of speech for any political forces, which act in the framework of the Constitution, has not become an absolute norm for the state power. Yet, the court decision of 11 January will enter history not only as a consecutive attempt to order the freedom of speech and to line up Russian mass media. The main sense of this decision is different.
The open servility of the Presidium of the Supreme arbitral court demonstrated the acute shortage of the independent justice at the top of the Russian court system. Some weeks before the similar shortage of independence in the military justice was demonstrated by the verdict in Grigoriy Paskos case.
It is not principal, if there was an open pressure on the judges or, what is even more dangerous, they took their decisions obeying the anticipating servility. One thing is important: the state, which announced itself European and is hurrying to the tests of the new age, has problems with legal brakes.
The main lesson, which the previous century taught Russia, was that inviolability and indivisibility of the right is the only guarantee of our freedom and safety. So we may not consider the TV company TV-6 as the only prey of the mentioned court decision. The court arbitrariness in its any form threatens the rights of all Russian citizens, their safety, freedom and life.
Exactly ten years ago we were pleased, when the newly created Constitutional court cancelled the decree of the Russian President on blending several ministries, and the President obeyed this decision. We had an illusion that the independent court power appeared in Russia at last. Now it is clear that the reason was not the force of the law, but just the temporary weakness of the executive power. Now the latter has somewhat grew stronger and finds without difficulty tamed judges, who are ready to demonstrate their loyalty not to law, but to their bosses.
What has happened proves again that it is necessary to reform the Russian court system as soon as possible. The society must mobilize all its efforts to create after all in our country the independent and strong court power.
Memorial expresses its solidarity to journalist collective of TV-6, which suffered from the arbitrariness of the court. The inviolability of the right and the freedom of expression are the stronghold of a civil society. We believe that no public organization, independently of the type its activities, may not observe aloofly how the power, following their petty political interests, tries to destroy this stronghold.
16 January 2002