Constitutional social rights and their justiciability

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Author: Aleksei Dolzhikov

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2019-6-16-49

Keywords: access to justice; constitutional justice; constitutional rights; justiciability; social rights


The author discusses the features of constitutional social rights in light of access to justice. Then he puts forward a thesis about the influence of the majority of these features on the possibility of protection of these rights in constitutional adjudication. The protection of social rights as seen in the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation could be possible only as complementary to classical freedoms. The emphasis on social rights should not exclude the original function of the constitutional review, which is to prevent any arbitrary interference with individual freedom. Loyalty to authoritarian tendencies of the state and the proclaimed populism in constitutional jurisprudence to allegedly ensure social justice for the most vulnerable groups leads to the loss of the ability to protect the Constitution properly. As a result, classical freedoms due to the ideology of judicial self-restraint are excessively limited as well as widely declared social rights become in fact the privileges of the government officials or other upper classes. Their protection in constitutional adjudication is already perceived as more acceptable by other political actors due to corporate solidarity. The author puts forward the argument that the existing misconception about the absence of the legal nature of constitutional rights requires clarification of the addressees of these rights. Due to the model of the constitutional complaint, the claims of the applicant trying to protect his social rights are directed to the legislator. Other instruments could be challenged in constitutional litigation only as an exception and in connection with the statute. Social rights as guidelines for the legislator are directed towards the progressive implementation of the social and economic policies and depend on available budgetary (other) resources of the government in a certain historical context. Special attention is paid in the paper to the key feature of the constitutional social rights – it’s possible judicial protection or justiciability. A common view is that constitutional courts should not interfere with the appropriateness of legislation and the budget process could cause the social rights to be deprived of their constitutional status and to become statutory rights, which are completely dependent on the discretion of the representative bodies. A more creative approach of constitutional judges to the legal remedies could improve the effectiveness of social rights.

About the author: Aleksei Dolzhikov – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor of Constitutional Law, Faculty of Law at Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Citation: Dolzhikov A. (2019) Konstitutsionnye sotsial'nye prava i ikh yustitsiabel'nost' [Constitutional social rights and their justiciability]. Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 16–49. (In Russian).


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