It is an established principle of administrative law that in order for a collective body to be validly constituted, the presence of the members required to constitute a quorum is in itself insufficient; it must also be demonstrated that all members of the body were given the opportunity to attend by being given the prescribed notice. The absence of a member from a duly convened meeting is permissible only when the absence is objectively justified.
In the recent case of Sotos Savvas v Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC),1 the administrative court examined an allegation that a collective body (an EAC committee to determine staff promotions) had been invalidly constituted. The meeting under review had not been chaired by the EAC chair, as required by the relevant regulations, but by the vice-chair. The chair's absence was recorded in the minutes, but no reason and no consideration of whether the reason for nonattendance was justified were provided. The applicant contended that these deficiencies invalidated the decisions made.
The court began by reiterating established case law that the composition of an administrative body constitutes a matter of public order which is open to court consideration at any stage of the procedure, even though it may not have been filed as a legal ground for annulment. The court dismissed the defendant's arguments that the meeting was quorate and validly constituted. Instead, the court held that the question of impediment to attend a meeting of a collective body is clearly and inseparably linked to, and directly affects, the body's lawful composition.
The court based its decision on the recently decided case of Stylianos Agathocleous v Nicosia Water Supply Council, in which it was found that the existence of a quorum is insufficient to resolve any irregularities, as the requirement of legal composition and lawful meeting is a fundamental prerequisite for examining a quorum at a second stage.2 Further, on the basis of the Plenary Session of the Supreme Court's majority decision in Antenna Ltd v Cyprus Broadcasting Authority,3 the administrative court decided that the absence of any record of the reasons for the chair's non-attendance at the meeting was sufficient grounds to invalidate the decisions made, as they were the end result of the preparatory acts that formed the complex administrative act.
Although this finding was sufficient to determine the case, the court considered it appropriate to highlight the importance of keeping all necessary records in relation to the proceedings of administrative bodies in order to allow proper scrutiny and review if the need arises. In the present case, the EAC consulting committee neglected to keep proper minutes of the interviews with candidates, as the minutes indicated neither the composition of the committee nor the date of the interviews. In the court's opinion, this failure constituted a further, separate ground for annulment. The norms of sound administration impose a duty on administrative bodies to keep proper minutes and record the essential facts underlying any decision that they make. Article 24 of Law 158(I)/1999, which codifies the general principles according to which the public administration must act, specifically requires collective bodies to keep detailed records of their meetings that clearly state the decisions taken.
1 1881/2012, dated October 30 2017.
2 Revisional Jurisdiction Appeal 29/2011, dated July 21 2016.
3 (2013) 3 Supreme Court 242.
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