1. The right of petitioning the authorities took its rise in constitutional law from the Magna Carta (1215). Eversince the right of petitioning the Crown and Parliament for redress of grievances has been acknowledged as a fundamental principle of the English constitutional law and has been uninterruptedly exercised.


When an aggrieved party could not obtain a write to suit his case he would often adopt the expedient of presenting a petition to the King in Council, concisely stating the facts of his case and the relief sought. Such petitions were delegated by the Council to one or more of its members, usually the Chancellor, but in cases relating to admiralty to the Admiral, for consideration and decision. By the middle and later fourteenth century, however, a variety of addresses occur on those petitions. Sometimes this were sent to the King, sometimes to the Council and more often to the Chancellor. In this way the chancery jurisdiction originated.


As a result of the Seven Bishops Trials the right to petition has been recognised by an express provision in the Bill of Rights, 1668, to the effeet that.


"It is the right of the subjects to petition the King and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitions are illegal".


Petitions were also submitted to the King in Parliament as the highest court of justice. They were originally directed to judicial rather than legislative measures, and they were dealing with individual grievances. Gradually, however, and especially during the seventeenth century when Parliament came to be regarded as a political and legislative body rather that as a court, the petitions were addressed to either of the House and were praying usually for an alteration of the general law rather than a redress of private wrong.


The right to petition the House of Commons and its powers in this respect there were laid down in the following two resolutions of the House of Commons in 1699:


"That it is the inherent right of every commoner in England to prepare and present petitions to the House of Commons in case of grievance, and the House of Commons to receive the same".


"That it is an undoubted right and privilege of the Commons to judge and determine, touching the nature and matter of such petitions, how far they are lit and unfit to be received".


Under the prevailing practice such petitions are presented to the Houses of Parliament by one of their members but they may be sent directly by British subjects residing abroad or by inhabitants of overseas British teritories. Of course their receivability depends upon the competence of Parliament to deal with them.


Petitions to the Crown continue to be submitted in exercise of the constitutional right comprised in the aforesaid provision of the Bill of Rights.


2. The right to petition is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Under that Amendment.


"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the right of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances".


Though historically the right to petition in the primary right and the right to peaceably assemble a subordinate and instrumental right as if the First Amendment was reading "the right of the people peaceably to assemble in order to petition government", nevertheless, the modern view is that the right to peaceably assemble is "a cognate to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental". Furthermore the right to petition has expanded as it was found not to be confined to "redress of grievances" but to comprehend demands for any exercise by the government of its powers in furtherance of the interest and prosperity of the petitioners and of their views an politically contentious matters. As observed by Chief Justice Waite in the Cruikshank's case.


"The right of the people peacably to assemble for the purpose of petitioning the Congress for a redress of grievances or for anything alse connected with the powers or the duties of the national government, is an attribute of national citizenship and, as such, under the protection of, and guaranteed by, the United States. The very idea of a government, republican in from, implies a right on the part of its citizens to meet peacably for consultation in respect of public affairs and to petition for a redress of grievances".


In this way the sending of a telegram to the Secretary of State for Labour sharply criticising the action of a State court in a pending case was considered an exercise of the right to petition a duly accredited representative of the United States.


Also the right of lobbying in its commonly accepted sense of directing communications with members of Congress on pending or intended federal legislation is considered as an expression of the right to petition.


The right to petition cannot be amended either by a State or by a private individual.


3. The right to petition in France has become today an historical memory. The development of the press and the freedom of assembly and association, the emergence of various political parties and other presure groups and the expansion of their influence on the formation of public opinion and the outlining of parliamentary policies and the recousre to administrative tribunals contributed to the loss of the former importance of that right.


In the past, however, and especially towards the end of the eighteenth and throughout the nineteenth century the right to petition has played an important role in the constitutional history of France.


The Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen contains no provision relating to that right.


But in the Constituent Assembly of 1791 the question of the protection of that right was raised and hotly discussed.


Chapelier, in his report to the Assembly on the 3rd May 1791 drew for the first time the distinction between the right to submit a petition for the redress of a private wrong suffered by an individual plainte, which belongs to every person, and the right to a petition whereby a legislative reform or the adoption of certain administrative arrangements are claimed which may be exercised by an active citizen only.


"Le droit de petition" said "est le droit qu'a le citoyen actif de presenter son voeu au legislatif, au roi, aux administrateurs sur les objects d'administration et l'organization. La plainte est un droit de recours de tout homme qui serait lese dans ses interets perticuliers par une activite quelconque".


That distinction however, was strongly opposed in the Constituent Assembly of 1791 where the view that the right to petition is "la driot imprescriptible de tout homme vivant en societe" was successfully supported and was adpoted by the constitution of the 3 September 1791.


Paragraph 2 of its First Title - guarantees as natural and civil right.


"La liberte d'adresser aux autorites constituees des petitions signees individuellement".


Eversince and until 1848 that right has been considered in France as an individual right exercisable by any person. It had particular importance under the Charter of 1814 where the Houses had no right to initiate legislation as it brought them legislative maters for discussion.


Later on, however, petitions to the legislature for legislative reform were nor allowed and individual complaints could be put through a deputy.

The right to petition the legislative bodies for legislative reform though akin to the right of initating legislation by popular initiative - initiative popular - which exists in certain countries governed under the semi-direct and semi-representative from of government, nevertheless, it is distinguished from such right.


4. The right to petition was adopted in one from or another by the various constitutions of the nineteenth century.


The Greek Constitutions during the struggle for independence contain provisions relating to the right to petition.


The Constitution revised by the National Assembly at Astros of 1823 in its article (a) provides that.


"each one may petition in writing the legislature setting out his opinion on any matter".


Similar provision is contained in art. 25 of the Constitution passed by the National Assembly at Troijine in 1827, except that the opinion should be referred to public matters.


One of the oldest constitutions that of Belgium in article 21 provides that.

"Everyone has the right to submit to the public authorities petitions signed by one more persons.


Constituted authorities only have the right to submit petitions in a collective name".


But that provision lost its importance in view of the increased freedom of the press.


The provision of the Constitution of Belgium was adopted in other constitutions of the nineteenth century.


Thus the Constitutions of Greece of 1844 and 1864 in their articles 7 and 9 respectively provide "that every one or many acting together may submit written petitions to the authorities observing the laws of the State".


The Constitutions Of the Netherlands of 1887 by its article 8 not only guarantees the right to petition but prescribes also the procedure to be followed by the petitioner in the submission of his petition.


Further provisions are contained in Constitutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe, Asia and Latin America.


No provision about this right has been made in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights and its Protocols of the Council of Europe, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United nations.


Article 25 of the European Convention and the Optical Protocol to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, provide, however, for individual petitions from State that have declared that they accept the competence of the respective commission or committee. The Republic of Cyprus has nor yet made any declaration under article 25 of the European Convention and though she signed the Optional Protocol has not vet ratified it.


With the emergence of new institutions, such as that of the Ombudsman in various countries the right to petition lost further from its significance.



1. Under Article 29 of the Constitution of the Republic.


"1. Every person has the right individually or jointly with others to address written requests or complaints to any competent public authority and to have them attended to and decided expeditiously; an immediate notice of any decision taken duly reasoned shall be given to the person making the request or complaint and in any event whiten a period not exceeding thirty days.


2. Where any interested person is aggrieved by any such decision or where no such decision is notified to such person whithin the period specified in paragraph 1 of this Article, such person may have recourse to a competent court in the matter of such request or complaint".


That article is not suspended on a declaration of emergency under article 183 of the Constitution and should be read in conjunction with article 35 under which the legislative, executive and judicial authorities of the Republic shall be bound to secure, whitin the limits of their respective competence, its efficient application.


2. The right to petition under the Constitution of Cyprus is a fundamental right having the negative features of individual rights of the old catalogue in that the State cannot interfere within the sphere of the exercise of that right. But apart from the obligation of the State to abstain (nec facere) a positive duty is imposed on it to ensure and protect that right (cf. art. 29, 1 & 2 and 35).


Article 29 creates an independent individual right which is one of fundamental human freedoms and does not only afford the means for the protection and enforcement of other human right and liberties as it has been maintained elsewhere.


Unlike other Constitutions guaranteeing that right only to citizen article 29 of the Constitution of Cyprus guarantees that right to every person. The right to petition belongs to any person in the Republic irrespective of whether such person is a citizen, an alien, a convict or is deprived of his political rights.

The question is whether legal persons can invoke the provisions of article 29. The word "person" is defined in article 186 (1) as including "any company, partnership, association, society, institution or body of persons, corporate or unincorporate". But that definition applies "unless it is otherwise expressly provided or required by the context" and it could be argued that the word "individually" shows the opposite direction. But article 29 provides that "every person individually or jointly with others" may petition which indicates that there may be collective petitions. petitions on behalf of corporate bodies are not, therefore excluded.


The question whether public officers enjoy the protection of article 29, which is a controversial one in other countries, cannot be raised as the wording of article 29 covers every one.


3. From the wording of article 29 speaking about "requests and complaints" to "competent authorities" which have "to attend to such requests and complaints and decide thereupon expeditiously" it appears that petition to the House of representative for legislative reform or other legislative action cannot be submitted or entertained. In this respect the provision of acticle 29 is more restrictive than that of its prototype article 9 of the Constitution of Greece which applies not only to complaints but also to petitions suggesting to the adoption of measures not only concerning the individual petitioner but also relating to the general interests of the people or of the State.


The petition should be addressed to "any competent public authority" and not to public officers. Which are such authorities it may be inferred from the wording of paragraph 1 of article 29 and from its paragraph 2.


The "competent public authority" must be such as to be able to decide on the request or complaint made and to grand a remedy thereon and in case of its failure to be proceeded against by a recourse to the Court (paragraph 2). As decided by the Supreme Constitutional Court in the case of Kyriakides v. the Public (1 RSCC at p. 77).


"In the opinion of the Court paragraph 2 of Article 29 gives, inter alia, an aggrieved person a right of recourse to a competent court in respect of the failure to furnish him with a reply in accordance with paragraph 1 of such Article. It is clear that, where the competent public authority, which has failed to reply as above, is one of those referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 146, then this Court is the competent court in question and proceedings lie before it under Article 146 in respect of such failure itself to reply".


The public authorities referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 146 are "authorities exercising any executive or administrative authority".


A petition cannot be made to the House of Representative which in not an authority but an organ of the State exercising the legislative power (article 61) or to the Court which are the organs of the State exercising the judicial power (articles 133 and 152). A petition to an authority exercising juridical or quassi juridical functions in respect of such exercise cannot be made either.


A petition under article 29 does not lie respect of any act which is not considered as involving "the exercise of executive or administrative authority". Thus the exercise of the prerogative of mercy though considered an exercise of "executive power" under articles 47 (i), 48 (m) and 49 (m) of the Constitution does not ipso facto amount to exercise of "any executive or administrative authority" whithin the meaning of article 146.1 and therefore, petitions for mercy are not within the ambit of article 29.


4. On the submission of a petition complying with article 29 to a competent authority, that is to say to the authority which has competence to deal with the petition and pronounce a decision thereon that authority has a constitutional duty to attend to the decision and decide thereon expeditiously. On reaching a decision notice of the decision, duly reasoned should be given to the petitioner promptly and in any event whitin a period not exceeding thirty days.


The decision contemplated by article 29 must be interpreted as being a decision which is capable of being reached, having regard to the circumstances of each particular case, whitin the period of thirty days.


If the interested person is aggrieved by any such decision or where no such decision is notified to such person whitin the thirty days, such person may have recourse to a competent court in the matter of such request or complaint.

So long as the decision should be duly reasoned it follows that the Supreme Court to have competence to deal with a failure to comply with article 29 the subject matter of the request or complaint must be within the jurisdiction of the Court under article 146 otherwise the Court could not properly examine the matter and decide whether the reply was duly reasoned or not. A request or complaint relating to a legislative or juridical act, not coming within the purview of article 146, connat therefore, be the subject of a request or complaint under article 29.


And if the petitioner, who has not received a reply to his petition, has proceeded under article 146 in respect of the substance of the matter for which a reply has been sought then it cannon be said that such person continues any longer to have "any existing legitimate interest", as provided by paragraph 2 of article 146, unless as a result of such failure itself he has suffered any material, determent which would entitle to a claim for relief under paragraph 6 of article 146. The petitioner cannot, therefore, claim a decision for failure to reply under article 29 when he has proceeded in respect of the substance of the matter for which a reply has been sought.


5. In the Constitution of Cyprus there is no provision expressly restraining any juridical proceedings against the petitioner for any matter contained in the petition pending its consideration and final disposal, as it exists in the Constitution of Greece.


That provision was for the first time made in Greece during the revision of its Constitution in 1911 and according to the report of the then constitutional committee "it was made to remedy a non rarely occuring impropriety whereby a petitioner before been heard was transformed into an accused owing to an alleged libel or other offence contained in the petition".


In Cyprus no such case has occured so far. But it would be improper to prosecute a petitioner for allegations contained in his petition, which may render him liable to prosecution, before the disposal of the petition itself. The Attorney-General, who under article 113 is in change of all prosecutions, no doubt shall not embark upon or shall stay any such prosecution.


Some considerations apply in case of disciplinary proceedings. So long as the matter is under examination it would be improper to start disciplinary proceedings for alleged disciplinary offences contained in the petition.


Of course the petitioner shall remain civilly or criminalyy liable for the contents of his petition though in case of defamation it may be a good defence that the publication was conditionaly privileged.


6. The right to petition in Cyprus, being restricted to petitions for redress for a private wrong - droit de plainte - and not extended on the whole ground covered by such right elsewhere, is of greater importance than in order countries. And though the individual has got also a right of recourse to the Court against acts or omissions of authorities exercising executive or administrative authority which are contrary to law or in excess of power, nevertheless such recourse does not detract from the importance of the right to petition which may provide a quicker and simpler cours for redress. The right to petition is exercised under the supervision and the protection of the Courts, which have been always prompt to intervene in any case of infrigement of such right for safeguarding the interests of the individual.


In the absence of an Ombudsman in Cyprus the existence of the right to petition may constitute, to certain extent, a substitute for his functions.





Attorney-General of the Republic of Cyprus.

I. Le droit de petition a penetre dans le droit constitutionnel anglais par la Magna Carta de 1215. Depuis Iors il a ete sans interruption donnant meme naissance a la competence juridictionnelle du Chancelier. Au depart, les petitions visaient des measures judiciaires plutot que legislatives et exposaient des griefs individules. Mais progresivement la petition a l'organe legislatif est apparue, surtout a partir du 17e siecle.


Aux Etats-Unis, le droit de petition est granti par le Premier Amendement a la Constitution. Il est interprete aujourd'hui comme comprenant non seulement la plainte personnelle mais aussi la demande adressee a l'executif et au legislatif pour qu'ils exercent leurs pouvoirs dans un certain sens.


En France, le droit de petition appartient pour l'essentiel a l'histoire par suite, notamment, du developpment de la presse et des possibilites de recours qu'offrent les tribunaux administratifs.


Le droit de petition a ete adopte, sous une forme ou une autre, par les diverses Vonstitutions du XIXe siecle et en particulier, par les Constitutions grecque, belge et neerlandaise. Aucune disposition concernant le droit de petition ne figure cependant ni dans la Declaration Universelle des Droits de l'Homme et dans les Pactes ni dans la Convention Europeenne et ses Protocoles Additionnels. L'apparition de nouvelles institutions, comme celle de l'Ombudsman, a d'ailleurs enleve beaucoup de signification au droit de petition.


II. Dans la Constitution de la Republique de Chypre, c'est l'article 29 qui garantit a toute personne (et pas seulement a tout citoyen) le droit d'adresser des demandes ou des plaintes ecrites a toute autorite publique competente. Ainsi, un droit individuel autonome est cree qui permet de proteger les autres droits de l'homme, surtout qu'il ne peut faire l'object d'aucune mesure de derogation, meme pendant les periodes d'exception. Son application, cependant, a souleve un certain nombre de problemes.


C'est qu'il est admis le droit de petition peut exerce par toute personne aussi bien physique que morale. Les fonctionnaires n'en sont pas davantage prives. Il s'adresse a toute autorite publique, executive ou administrative, a l'exclusion donc du Parlement qui est un organe de l'Etat execat le pouvoir legislatif et des tribunaux qui exercent le pouvoir judiciare.


L'autorite saisi de la petition doit se prononcer rapidement par une decisionmotivee qui doit etre a la connaissance du petitionnaire dans un delai n'excedant pas trente jours. Si tel n'est pas le cas petitionnaire peut saisir les tribunaux.


Aucune disposition de la Constitution chypriote ne limite expressement la possibilite d'engager une action en justice contre le petitionnaire aussi longtemps qu'une decision au sujet de sa petition n'aura pas ete prise. Cette limitation n'en existe pas moins en fait mais, bien entendu, elle n'est que temporaire.


Le droit de petition qui est donc a Chypre un droit de plainte y joue un role beaucoup plus important que dans d'autres pays. Exerce sous la protection et le controle des tribunaux, il fournit une voie de recours plus simple et plus rapide, remplacant, dans une certaine mesure, l'institution d'un Ombudsman.