referendum row

Top court declares Catalan sovereignty declaration unconstitutional

Vote comes on first day justices gather to begin discussing challenge made by Rajoy

María Fabra

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the sovereignty declaration passed by Catalonia's regional parliament early last year is unconstitutional.

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, Spain's top court ruled that the Catalan government cannot continue with its plans to form separate institutions based on this declaration of independence.

The conservative majority on the bench pushed to annul the declaration because of its unconstitutionality while the liberal minority said the statement was never legally binding, and the court should have dropped the entire case in the first place.

At the same time, according to court sources, the top court ruled that the holding of a referendum – which the Catalan government of Artur Mas is intent on doing – was not in itself illegal as long as it was conducted within the framework of the law. The vote came on the first day that the court met to discuss the legal challenge made by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

The court ruled that holding a referendum was not illegal as long as it was conducted within the law

Last year, the Popular Party (PP) administration filed a challenge to the Catalan parliament’s sovereignty declaration passed on January 23, 2013 that identified the Catalan people as “a sovereign political and legal entity.” The court had ordered the region not to act on this declaration until it could resolve the case.

Congress is scheduled to hold a debate on April 8 on the Catalan parliament’s petition to transfer powers to local authorities so that they can hold a status referendum in November.

It was not immediately clear how Tuesday’s decision would affect the planned referendum.

Earlier in the day, the permanent committee of the Catalan parliament voted to ask that the chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, and two other justices, recuse themselves in studying the central government’s challenge to the sovereignty declaration.

In a filing, the commission said that De los Cobos and Justices Pedro González-Trevijano and Enrique López were anti-Catalan.

De los Cobos, who was the center of controversy last year after he admitted that he paid membership dues to the Popular Party (PP) from 2008 to 2011 while serving on the bench, has denied that he is biased.

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