An action for the judicial review of an administrative decision taken unjustly as described in Article 469A .1(b)(ii) of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta will not be considered if it is filed more than six months after the applicant knew or could have known about that decision. Hon. Mark Chetcuti, presiding over the case of Joshua Agius vs Kap Kmandant tal-Forzi Armati ta’ Malta, held that contrary to other cases of the interruption or suspension of prescription, applicants had to respect the clear limitation rules set by Article 469A(3) when filing a claim against an administrative decision.
On the 14th of February 2018, The First Hall Civil Court heard pleas by the plaintiff claiming that the administrative decision taken by the Captain of the Armed Forces leading to the termination of his employment within the Armed Forces of Malta went against principles of natural justice.
The termination followed an incident in which a video was leaked onto social media depicting a member of the armed forces suffering injuries following an accident which occurred during the filming of a video intended to be used for the purposes of training within the force.
It was pleaded that the termination did not follow a thorough and serious investigation. The plaintiff relied upon 469A.1(b)(ii) of Chapter 12 of the Laws of Malta which states that a court of civil jurisdiction may enquire into the validity of an administrative decision when the decision is ultra vires on the grounds that it failed to observe the principles of natural justice or mandatory procedural requirements in performing the administrative act or in its prior deliberations thereon.
The defendant primarily relied upon the claim that the action brought by the plaintiff did not adhere to the procedural limitations set by Article 469A(3) which states that:
“An action to impugn an administrative act under sub-article(1)(b) shall be filed within a period of six months from the date when the interested person becomes aware or could have become aware of such an administrative act, whichever is the earlier.’’
The Court limited itself to the exploration of the preliminary counterclaim by the defendant and solely considered whether the plaintiff’s claim was made fuori termine with regards to the six-month period ascribed by law. It held that, in accordance with previous judgements by the Court, this six-month period is one of limitation that is not subject to the ordinary conditions of suspension or interruption of other prescription periods.
This means that the fact that discussions are being held between the parties over the administrative decision in question does not affect the six-month limitation set by law for the filing of an action by the plaintiff. The court took into consideration that the plaintiff was informed of the termination of his duties on the 17th of March 2015 and received his official letter of termination on the 18th of March. It considered therefore that the action should have been filed, at the latest, by the 18th of September of that same year whereas the lawsuit in desamina was filed on the 22nd of September. The Court dismissed the action with all fees in question to be paid by the plaintiff.
Av Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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