Constitutional Court ordered on Friday evening to suspend application of those clauses in the civil procedure code based on which judge ordered appointment of temporary managers in Rustavi 2 TV a week ago.
This is Rustavi 2’s second constitutional complaint stemming from legal battle over broadcaster’s ownership dispute, unfolding in parallel in the common courts.
On November 5 judge of Tbilisi City Court, Tamaz Urtmelidze, ordered as an interim injunction in ownership dispute over Rustavi 2 TV to appoint temporary managers, named by the plaintiff Kibar Khalvashi, replacing broadcaster’s director general Nika Gvaramia and chief financial officer Kakha Damenia.
The order was appealed by the Rustavi 2 TV’s current majority shareholders in the common court, but in parallel they also lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court arguing that clauses of civil procedure code based on which the decision on change of management was made entail possibility of applying temporary injunctive measures with too broad scope that can result into violation of constitutional rights to property and media freedom. In addition the applicant sought as an interim measure suspension of application of these clauses, pending Constitutional Court’s final verdict.
While the Constitutional Court was still in the process of hearing this case, on November 12 the Tbilisi City Court judge delivered decision on Rustavi 2 owners’ appeal into the order on change of management. Judge Urtmelidze party overturned his earlier ruling from a week ago and reinstated Rustavi 2 TV’s top management, including its director general Nika Gvaramia and financial director Kakha Damenia.
As a result, Gvaramia and Damenia’s executive powers have been restored at least until appellate process into judge’s earlier decision on replacing the management was completed.
But with the Constitutional Court’s November 13 ruling, suspending application of disputed clauses, the appeal process in the decision on change of management can hardly change anything and Gvaramia and Damenia will remain chief executives of the broadcaster.
The Constitutional Court said on November 13 that it was suspending, pending the final decision on disputed clauses, “application of a normative content of article 271 and of first sentence of paragraph 3 of article 198 of the civil procedure code, which envisages granting management, representation and leadership powers to a temporary managers in a legal entity – mass communication, print or electronic [media] outlet, as an interim measure to secure enforcement of [court’s] decision.”
Rustavi 2 chief executive, Nika Gvaramia, welcomed the decision as a “victory” for the broadcaster and for the country.
“Constitutional Court’s decision gave a chance to the government to save the face… We won today, but the most important is that the Georgian state won,” he said.
Addressing the government Gvaramia also said: “Retreat will not be a defeat; on the contrary it will be a victory… Stand aside from this process and let the judiciary and the parties involved [in the dispute] to settle the case independently without your involvement.”
Now the focus is expected to be redirected back to the main trial involving ownership dispute case through which plaintiff Kibar Khalvashi, who owned Rustavi 2 TV in 2004-2006, tries to reclaim broadcaster’s shares.
On November 3 Tbilisi City Court judge Tamaz Urtmelidze ruled in favor of Khalvashi and ordered plaintiff’s ownership over Rustavi 2 TV to be restored.
The verdict, however, is appealed by the current owners of the broadcaster and in fact they remain shareholders of the Rustavi 2 unless all the avenues of appeal are exhausted.
The next stage is Court of Appeals and then the appeal, if the parties in the case decide so, can go to the Supreme Court.
Fearing that the plaintiff, Kibar Khalvashi, could have sought an immediate enforcement of the court verdict, Rustavi 2 TV lawyers filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court challenging the clause in Georgia’s civil procedure code which allows for an immediate enforcement of the court decision in certain cases even if the verdict is appealed to a higher court by one of the parties in dispute.
On November 2, a day before the Tbilisi City Court delivered its verdict, the Constitutional Court ruled as an interim measure to suspend the application of the disputed clause in Georgia’s civil procedure code, effectively depriving the plaintiff in Rustavi 2 ownership case to seek immediate enforcement of the verdict.