Bachana Shengelia, a Georgian notary and son of Ia Kerzaia, the late principal of Public School N6 in Zugdidi, has filed a lawsuit in the Constitutional Court of Georgia against the amendment made to the Justice Minister’s order on May 22. According to the amendment, the notary will be suspended from office for a term of one month to two years for violating “the principle of political neutrality.”
Georgian Young Lawyers Association (GYLA), a local watchdog, that will protect Shengelia’s rights in court, noted that according to paragraph 5 of article 17 of the Georgian constitution, “the restriction of freedom of expression may be allowed only in accordance with law.” It also said that any restriction under bylaw, including the Justice Minister’s order, is inadmissible.
“If lawsuit is satisfied, a very important precedent will be created in our country and none of the state bodies will have the right to impose censorship or assess political bias or views in general [expressed] in one’s personal space,” Bachana Shengelia wrote.
Bachana Shengelia, who has become a vocal critic of the Georgian Dream-led government since his mother’s controversial death, applied to court after the Justice Ministry, the supervisory body for notaries, sent a letter to him, saying that it has launched disciplinary proceedings against him for his Facebook remarks.
Restricting Shengelia from performing his notary job, the Justice Ministry said in the letter that it had been monitoring the notary’s Facebook page for a month and accused him of voicing his political opinions on social media. This, the Ministry argued, violated the principle of political neutrality the notaries are required to observe.
Shengelia successfully challenged the Ministry’s decision in Tbilisi City Court, that on June 30 instructed the state body to restore Shengelia’s access to “electronic notary registry and all programs necessary for notarial work.”
The Ministry, however, has yet to fulfill the ruling of the Tbilisi City Court, the suspended notary said. Shengelia then applied to the National Bureau of Enforcement to achieve the enforcement of the court ruling.
Civil.ge approached the Justice Ministry for comment, however the ministry declined to answer.
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Bachana Shengelia gained his publicity after his mother, a school principal, succumbed to a heart stroke in the wake of 2018 polls, allegedly pressured to join the campaign backing presidential bid of Salome Zurabishvili – candidate endorsed by the ruling Georgian Dream party.
Kerzaia’s family claimed her health condition worsened as a result of pressure coming from the authorities, that ordered inspection into Kerzaia’s school and recommended her dismissal.
Probe into Kerzaia’s case was launched in February 2019 for “the possible abuse of power by certain employees” of the Ministry of Education following Shengelia’s appeal. Following a six-month investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office suspended probe “due to the absence of crime” into Kerzaia’s death.