Turkey Constitutional Court opens the door for refunding fines applied during anti-COVID-19 rules

Turkey Constitutional Court ruled that administrative fines applied to people violating measures to fight the COVID-19 pandemic should be refundable. Authorities took most decisions without sufficient legal basis.

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, Turkey | © Damla Özkan

The Constitutional Court of Turkey opened the door for refunding administrative fines collected from citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 4, the highest jurisdiction of Turkey ruled that making administrative fines already collected non-refundable was unconstitutional.

When the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Turkey in March 2020, the country quickly imposed restrictions to fight the spread of the disease.

Like many countries worldwide, Turkey imposed social distancing rules, curfews, and mandatory masks. Authorities also applied administrative fines from 392 to 3,180 lira (62 to 502 dollars in March 2020) for not complying with the rules.

But the rules were actually not laws. As denounced by the Human Rights Association (İHD), most of the measures taken by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic lacked a legal basis.

Turkey implemented the restrictions through presidential circulars as part of the standard and existing Public Health Law. Authorities provided the information as news on the Ministry of Interior’s website, but no laws were published in the Official gazette.

Turkey implemented a curfew between March and July 2020 without declaring a state of emergency, for instance.

The actual legislation regarding the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic only came officially into force on November 2022.

Consequently, the Ministry of Finance canceled all fines applied between March 2020 and November 2022. But only for those that still needed to be collected.

Some people litigated the penalty, others were not notified they received a fine or the administrative process was too long so that the fine applied was not collected by the time it got canceled.

However, authorities wrote in the law that all administrative fines already collected were not refundable.

But for the Constitutional Court, such a provision in the law is a “violation of the principle of equality” and is therefore annulled, according to its statement published on May 24.

Last January, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of a man fined 3,180 lira in May 2020 because the curfew imposed didn’t have sufficient legal basis.

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