The bureaucratic sufferings of a car owner who, due to the mistake of the authorities, registered his car’s engine number as stolen and the solution of Strasbourg
Arutyunov v. Russia 18.12.2018 (no. 5552/06)
Right to peaceful enjoyment of property. The applicant had bought a car in 1998 without him having the slightest problem. When he decided to transfer it in 2003, the Russian Ministry of Transport refused to register the transfer because his car was on a list of stolen engines. The applicant complained that his engine was legal but the authorities did not move to investigate. Eventually in 2005 it was discovered that the authoroties had been wrong and that his car’s engine was not stolen. Eventually after 2 years and 3 months he was able to sell the car. He then sued for damages but was rejected. The Court ruled in favor of him as it noticed a violation of his right to the peaceful enjoyment of his property, since the prohibition imposed on him was due to an error by the authorities and not his own and was an excessive burden.
Article 1 of the First Additional Protocol
The applicant, Amayakovich Arutyunov, is a Russian national who was born in 1959 and lives in
Chernogolovka (Moscow Region, Russia).
The case concerned the fact that it had been impossible for Mr Arutyunov to sell and dispose of his
vehicle for several years.
In September 2003 Mr Arutyunov entered into a contract of sale for his vehicle for about 857 euros
(EUR). He subsequently asked the car registration authority to cancel the car’s registration number, a
formality that was essential in order to enable the purchaser to register the vehicle in his own name.
His request was refused, on the grounds that the vehicle’s engine number appeared on a list of
numbers of stolen engines. A preliminary investigation was opened and an expert examination was
conducted, which showed that the engine number was genuine and had not been altered. However,
the authority refused to remove the registration number of Mr Arutyunov’s car from the register.
In December 2005, following several complaints by Mr Arutyunov, the head of the regional
department of the Ministry of the Interior authorised, on an exceptional basis, the registration
formalities. In June 2006 Mr Arutyunov sold his car for about EUR 176. A note was placed on the
margins of the registration certificate, specifying that the engine number had been erroneously
entered on the list of stolen engines. Mr Arutyunov subsequently brought an action for damages for
the loss he considered that he had sustained as a result of the fact that he had been unable to
dispose of his vehicle for several years, but this was dismissed.
Mr Arutyunov relied on Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European
Convention of Human Rights
THE DECISION OF THE COURT
The Court finds that it is not open to discussion between the parties that the vehicle was the “property” of the applicant within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention and that the refusal of the authorities to carry out the formalities registration interfered with the applicant’s right to respect for his property. It considers that this measure is a regulation of the use of property, within the meaning of the second paragraph of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
In this case, the Court notes that the applicant’s good faith is not controversial and has never been challenged internally. With regard to the attitude of the authorities, it observes that, by virtue of the internal regulations, the inspectorate was required to inspect the vehicles and the documents relating to them at the time the applicant acquired it and requested registration. , ie in 1998, and to refuse to proceed with the registration formalities if necessary. It notes that the inspection found no circumstances justifying the refusal of the registration at that time. It considers that, in proceeding regarding the registration of the vehicle, the authorities gave the applicant a legitimate expectation of continuing to enjoy his property peacefully.
The Court further observes that the entry of the engine number on the list of stolen engine numbers was made in error, that the marking of the number was genuine despite. It notes that Circular No. 59, in force until 2009, simply prohibited the inspection from carrying out the registration formalities requested by the applicant. It notes in that regard that the courts examining the applicant’s appeal merely verified whether the inspector’s decision complied with Article 17 of Circular No 59.
35. The Court considers that this legal provision, which imposed an absolute and automatic prohibition to carry out the registration formalities and which did not allow the authorities to take into account neither their own mistake nor to weigh the various interests at stake, resulted in the applicant, whose good faith is indisputable, not being able to sell his vehicle for a period of two years and three months. It considers that such a prohibition imposed on the applicant constituted excessive burden, incompatible with the requirements of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
Violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1
Just satisfaction: 2,000 euros (EUR) (pecuniary damage), EUR 2,000 (non-pecuniary damage) and
EUR 80 (costs and expenses)(echrcaselaw.com editing).