Does the Constitution Safeguard a Right to Renounce Identification Number?
On 14 January 2019, the Constitutional Court of Moldova delivered a decision of inadmissibility on application no. 6a/2019 lodged with the Court for a constitutional review of the text “the subject of declaration is bound to submit the declaration electronically” of Article 24 para. (2), second phrase of the Law no. 133 of 17 June 2016 on declaring wealth and personal interests.
The case originated in an application lodged with the Court by the Ombudsman. The applicant contended that making it binding for the persons who renounced their State identification number to submit electronically their declarations of wealth and personal interests amounts to an interference with their freedom of conscience safeguarded by Article 31 para. (1) of the Constitution.
The Court had to firstly verify the applicability of the right relied on by the applicant. In this regard, the Court interpreted Article 31 para. (1) of the Constitution in light of the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights relative to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Thus, in case of Skugar and others v. Russia (decision) of 3 December 2009, the applicants alleged before the European Court that they were assigned taxpayer’s numbers, unbeknownst to them, since according to them accepting this was inconsistent with religious beliefs they shared, but which are granted protection under Article 9 of the Convention. In response to the allegations, the European Court held that general legislation which applies on a neutral basis without any link whatsoever with an applicant's personal beliefs cannot in principle be regarded as an interference with his or her rights under Article 9 of the Convention. It noted that the State, in designing and implementing its internal procedures, cannot be required to take into account the way in which individual citizens could interpret them on the basis of their religious beliefs. The alleged incompatibility of the authorities' internal arrangements with the applicants' beliefs is merely an incidental effect of generally applicable and neutral legal provisions.
It is also the case of Skugar and others v. Russia again where the European Court held that if every individual could remove or add at his whim the information he or she considered desirable or inappropriate, the uniformity required in administrative matters and its underlying philosophy would be impaired. Finally, it decided that the method of organisation of the State taxation database involving the use of individual taxpayers' numbers did not amount to an interference with the applicants' right to freedom of religion under Article 9 of the Convention.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Supreme Court of the United States of America noted the following, in Bowen v. Roy, 476 U.S. 693 (1986), a case the parents of a two-year-old child contended that using a social security number to identify their daughter would “steal her soul” and violate their native American religious beliefs: “[…] Roy may no more prevail on his religious objection to the Government's use of a Social Security number for his daughter than he could on a sincere religious objection to the size or color of the Government's filing cabinets. The Free Exercise Clause affords an individual protection from certain forms of governmental compulsion; it does not afford an individual a right to dictate the conduct of the Government's internal procedures [...].”
Stemming from the above-mention, the Court held that imposing the obligation to have an identification number in order to submit electronically the declarations of wealth and personal interests does not amount to an interference with the freedom to conscience as guaranteed by Article 31 para. (1) of the Constitution. Such an obligation represents a generally applicable and neutral legislative measure, with no link to personal beliefs of a person.
Therefore, the Constitution does not safeguard a right to renounce identification number and for this reason, the application does not meet the admissibility criteria.
This a courtesy translation of the original text available in Romanian language.