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Controversial law draft: Lawyers criticise NRW Epidemic Law

Controversial law draft : Lawyers criticise NRW Epidemic Law

The CDU/FDP state government plans an epidemic law. However, constitutional law experts see this as disempowering the state parliament and violating basic rights. The opposition also feels taken by surprise.

The CDU/FDP state government plans an epidemic law. However, constitutional law experts see this as disempowering the state parliament and violating basic rights. The opposition also feel taken by surprise.

Legal scholars have serious reservations about the planned epidemic law of the black-yellow state government. "I consider the bill in its current form unconstitutional in some points. A number of the planned provisions encroach too far on basic rights and are too vague," said Christoph Degenhart, a constitutional law expert, to our editorial team. The draft law is excessive: "It contains far too far-reaching discretionary powers and is thus reminiscent of emergency legislation for cases of tension or defence. This is disproportionate", says the emeritus professor of law and author of standard works on constitutional law. The principle of collegiality in the state cabinet is also being abolished. "The Minister of Health becomes the authoritative authority."

The cabinet draft passed on Saturday is intended to allow the state government to take far-reaching action now, but also in the future, in case of an epidemic. Physicians, nurses and other professional groups could be forced to work in hospitals. Authorities would be entitled to seize medical and sanitary material, including raw materials, from companies. The Minister of Education could single-handedly cancel final examinations, abolish sitting in class and change the state examinations for teachers. The draft law states that this could be effective if schools are not fully resumed after April 20. According to the ministry of education, the Abitur exams, however, are not affected by the bill. The state government justifies the amendment with the urgent need for adjustments to cope with the crisis. There was a lack of regulations that would allow the state to react to the crisis in the health system and maintain its ability to act.

However, lawyers consider the instructions for service in clinics in particular to be unconstitutional: "As far as service obligations are concerned, the circle of addressees is too broad: the obligations go far beyond the traditional obligations for emergency services and the like," said Degenhart. The Münster lawyer Janbernd Oebbecke expressed similar views. It must be examined more intensively whether such massive interventions are covered by the Basic Law. Because the most far-reaching, the planned service obligations, are unlimited.

At the same time, Degenhart sees Parliament's rights weakened: "The state government wants to empower itself to partially annul certain laws, such as the School or University Act, and to replace them with ordinances. This is an unconstitutional way of bypassing parliament."

The scope of application of the law as a whole is far too vague: "When this law is to be applied and not formulated concretely enough it could ultimately be applied to any threatening and easily transmissible disease. The question also arises: Is there even an epidemic that stops at national borders?"

The opposition also expressed sharp criticism: "It is one of the most drastic laws of my political and legal activity", said SPD opposition leader Thomas Kutschaty. The former NRW minister of justice called the draft unconstitutional and a carte blanche for the government. Among other things, he said, black-yellow could even use it to order editors and other professional groups into the hospital service. Kutschaty did not rule out an appeal to the Constitutional Court. SPD and Green factions do not want to approve the law in the state parliament on Wednesday.

(Original text: Kirsten Bialdiga. Translation: Mareike Graepel)