Supreme Court Judge: Government Covid orders should be less wide-ranging

Supreme Court judge Ivo Pilving.
Supreme Court judge Ivo Pilving. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

General government orders aimed at establishing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic should be more limited in scope, according to one Supreme Court judge, while legal precedent should shed more light on this, he said.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday and in the context of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the current Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) vaccination program should not be halted, Judge Ivo Pilving, one of 19 Supreme Court justices, said that: "At some point, the government needs a limit on the use of this instrument."

Disputes on various issues relating to the government orders are currently in the courts and, Pilving, who is chair of the top court's Administrative Chamber, these cases should get to the heart of the matter.

Of the EDF vaccination program, which saw over 40 members dismissed due to their refusal to get inoculated against Covid, Pilving said that: "It concerns one - albeit a very special one, but still on institution, the EDF - and there is a slightly looser rule of law here, since this does not apply to everyone. It concerns Estonian men and women working in the EDF, and to establish requirements on the basis of the Occupational Health and Safety Act."

A general government order is a special type of administrative act whose ensuing restrictions can only be challenged in court only each applicant person separately, while the corresponding court judgment does not extend to all instances of the restriction, but only to the applicant's case.

Their use has been the norm since the start of the pandemic; the then-ruling Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition instated an emergency situation (eriolukord), a legally-defined term which is not the same as a state of emergency, in mid-March 2020. This expired a little over two months later, though legislative amends have altered the situations in which an emergency situation is needed.

As a civil law state like virtually the rest of continental Europe, the use of case law has to date in Estonia been less prominent than that of legislation and legal code.

There are 19 justices on the Tartu-based Supreme Court's bench, divided across civil, criminal, administrative and constitutional chambers.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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