In a recently published decision, an applicant to the Constitutional Court claimed that its property rights were violated by an administrative action. The legal entity applicant’s gas station had been classified partially as a “transportation and transfer area” and partially as “parks and rest areas” under the Land Use Plan Aiming at Protection of Beyoğlu Urban Protected Area of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (“Administration”) dated 21 May 2008 (“Land Use Plan”). The Constitutional Court evaluated the material facts and ruled that the applicant’s property rights had not been violated on the basis no imbalance existed between public interest requirements and the applicant’s property rights.
The applicant claimed to the Constitutional Court that its property right had been violated in the following ways:
- The Land Use Plan has not been regularly and duly prepared.
- The Administration has used indefinite and ambiguous phrases about public interest in the decision regarding public interests, meaning the Administration’s action is not based on public interests.
- The gas station will decreased in value due to the Land Use Plan and the Administration did not take the applicant’s legitimate expectations into account under the Land Use Plan.
The Constitutional Court held the Administration’s property classification considerably limited the applicant’s use of the property. Accordingly, the court held there was a clear interference with the applicant’s property rights. The Constitutional Court assessed the interferences against Articles 13 and 35 of the Constitution, regarding restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as property right.
The Constitutional Court discussed the concept of public interest, emphasizing that property rights can only be restricted by legislation and for the public interest. The court noted that public interest must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and cannot be objectively defined. It went on to state that the burden of proof rests with the party who claims an interference is against public interests.
The Constitutional Court notes that although the expert report criticizes the Land Use Plan in general terms, the report does not clearly say that the Administration’s action was counter to public interests in the applicant’s specific circumstances. The Constitutional Court states that the applicant’s claim regarding the absence of public interest was rejected by the Administrative Court and the applicant failed to prove the absence of general interest before the Administrative Court. As a result, the Constitutional Court concluded that the Administration’s decision about public interest has legal basis.
The Constitutional Court emphasized the necessity of a reasonable balance between public interests which the Land Use Plan is intended to support, compared to restrictions on the applicant’s property rights, pursuant to the principle of proportionality. Within this framework, the Constitutional Court applied the principle of proportionality to the case at hand. It concluded that the situation caused by the Administration’s restrictions did not create an imbalance between public interest requirements and the applicant’s property rights. Therefore, the Constitutional Court ruled that the applicant’s property rights had not been violated.
The full text of the Constitutional Court’s reasoned decision was published in Official Gazette number 29479 on 18 September 2015 and can be found at this link (only available in Turkish).