Armenian lawmakers consider making amendments in the current legislation to penalize banks for fully blocking citizens’ accounts upon requests of bailiffs seeking only a partial freeze on assets.
Hundreds of Armenians have found in recent months that their bank accounts have been ‘frozen’ after they failed to pay their fines incurred mostly for violations of traffic rules registered by speed and other surveillance cameras that have been installed in Yerevan and elsewhere in the country in the past few years.
The resentment of most citizens, however, is connected with the fact that they aren’t properly notified about the fines they have to pay in the first place.
Amendments made in the Code of Administrative Offenses and enforced at the beginning of this year enable the police to impose the fine through the Service for the Mandatory Execution of Judicial Acts (SMEJA) without applying to courts.
While the SMEJA asks the banks to put a freeze on only a specific amount of a citizen’s bank account money, the banks freeze the account in question as a whole, which constitutes a violation of the current legal procedures.
Members of the ruling Republican Party of Armenia’s (HHK) faction in the National Assembly are drafting a bill to address the situation as they seek to make the banks responsible for freezing citizens’ accounts fully.
HHK lawmaker Arpine Hovannisian says it is the banks that are to blame for the situation. “The real losses incurred by citizens and the potential benefits that they miss should, therefore, be compensated,” she says.
Meanwhile, a member of a pressure group campaigning against ‘extremely heavy fines’ for traffic violations, is skeptical about the draft law as he says it does not solve any serious problem, while only forcing the banks to comply with the already existing law.
Vardan Hakobian, of the Get Out of Our Pockets initiative, says the main emphasis should be on the fact that citizens are not properly notified about the fines imposed on them, which causes further problems.
“I look at the police website and see my registered violations, so I wait for the papers to arrive to be able to appeal them at court, because I do not agree with these violations. But it is two months that I haven’t received any notification,” Hakobian complains.
Many lawyers also think it is a serious problem that beginning this year the SMEJA has been entitled to impose fines on citizens without a court ruling. Specialists view it as a gross violation of the Constitution as a citizen has the right to a fair trial and inviolability of property. Numerous citizens have turned to the Ombudsman’s Office in connection with the matter. The ombudsman is going to contest the issue at the Constitutional Court.