A Gardening Society against Its Members: Who Will Win the Battle for Information?
For years now, a gardening society member from Leningrad Oblast has been fighting against that society for access to documents on its economic and financial activities (including its charter, contracts, revenue/expense estimations, balance sheets, general and board meetings’ protocols, etc.) The society has been thoroughly hiding information what it spends member fees for.
The Kirovsk town court of the Leningrad Oblast supported the citizen’s claim and obliged the society to provide the applicant with most of documents he requested. However, the society filed a cassation appeal to the Leningrad Oblast Court, stating that the lower-instance court had violated the Article 27, Paragraph 3 of the Federal Law On Horticultural, Market-Gardening and Dacha Non-Commercial Associations of Citizens. The society believes that this legal norm is exhaustive.
The Leningrad Oblast Court agreed with the gardening society’s arguments and cancelled the first-instance court decision regarding the documents not mentioned in the Article 27, Paragraph 3. Administrative appeal court instances agreed with the oblast court’s position, so that the applicant has got right only to get copies of general and board meetings’ protocols; this gives no possibility to check the society’s expenditures.
Meanwhile, the Article 27, Paragraph 3 of the above-mentioned law contains no prohibitions for any information access, it only permits access to protocols. Moreover, Article 19 of the same law states that members have right to “get information on association managing and control bodies’ activities”.
The constitutional right of citizens to get information may be restricted only by federal law; the law in question contains no restrictions of information access for the associations’ members.
Interpreting the law provisions this way, the citizen, supported by the FIF lawyers, filed a claim in order to contest actual law implementation practice.
We believe it is absurd when an association member has no right to know what activities the association, a gardening society for example, performs really and how it spends member fees. However, at present, the gardening society has defeated its member in the battle for information access.
But the battle is not over. We will now be waiting for the Constitutional Court’s opinion.