FAQ – QUESTION PRIORITAIRE DE CONSTITUTIONNALITÉ (QPC)
A QPC can be envisaged when wishing to prompt the judge to prevent the application of a law contrary to fundamental freedoms.
A QPC can therefore be filed before all courts to ask the Constitutional Council to check, when the law has come into force, whether a legislative provision applicable to the dispute complies with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitutional framework, in other words the Constitution of 1958 itself, but also the texts to which the preamble of the Constitution refers (Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789, Preamble to the Constitution of 1946, fundamental principles recognized by the laws of the Republic and the Charter for the Environment of 2004).
It must be filed, as an incidental question, in a dispute brought before a French court.
The firm can assist the client and its lawyer to draft a QPC filed in the first instance or on appeal.
The judge must then rule on the QPC without delay.
If he considers that the necessary conditions are met, he passes on the QPC to the Conseil d’Etat or to the Court of cassation t and, in principle, stays theproceedings .
If the QPC is not forwarded, this non-forwarding may be challenged at the time of the referral to an appeal court or to the Supreme Court.
In the event of forwarding, the Conseil d’Etat or the Court of Cassation examines in turn, within three months, whether the necessary conditions are met.
If they are, the case is referred to the Constitutional Council. These decisions are not, for their part, subject to any appeal.
The Constitutional Council must issue a ruling within three months of the day on which the case was referred to it. It gives the parties’ representatives and the French state a period to exchange pleadings and then sets a date for a hearing.
The Constitutional Council may consider the provision which is referred to it to be in line with the guaranteed rights and freedoms.
The case then resumes and the judge before whom the QPC was filed must apply the law.
Alternatively, the Constitutional Council may declare the provision contrary to the Constitution. In this case, the provision will be abrogated but the Constitutional Council may defer the effects of its decision. This means that it may set a later date on which the abrogation will take effect, in order in particular to give Parliament time to pass a law to replace the unconstitutional provision with a new provision.
The case then resumes and the judge before whom the QPC was filed must issue a ruling without applying the law declared unconstitutional if the Constitutional Council specifies that the abrogation is immediate.