Case 106/77 Simmenthal [1978] ECR 629

Key point

  • National law can be effectively disapplied by any national court applying EC law without further declaration by a national constitutional court or repeal by national parliament

Facts

  • Italy imposed a public health inspection fee for the meat crossing the frontier under Italian Law
  • Simmental brought action for repayment of fees he paid before Italian court
  • Preliminary reference was made to the ECJ, which held that the fees violated the free movement of goods under EC law
  • The Italian court then ordered repayment by the government which against appealed against the order
  • The Italian government argued that a law can only be declared unconstitutional by the Italian Constitutional Court based on Italian law
  • Furthermore, declarations by the Italian Constitutional Court only has prospective effect, thus does not make good retroactively the governments infringements of EC law
  • A new preliminary reference was made for the question of whether a national law remains in place until declared unconstitutional by constitutional authorities or through legislative repeal

Ruling

  • A national court called upon to apply EC law can disapply national law without requesting or awaiting the prior setting aside of national law by legislative or other constitutional means

Judgment

  • Under the principle of supremacy all national laws prior or subsequent to the community rule that is incompatible are autonomically invalid
  • The effectiveness of the preliminary reference provision in the Treaty is impaired if the national court is prevented from applying EC law in accordance with the CJEU ruling
  • Any national law withholding jurisdiction of the national court to set aside national laws which conflict with EC law are incompatible with requirements ‘which are the essence’ of EC law
  • One such impediment is reserving discretion to resolve conflict of EC and national law to a court other than the one called upon to apply EC law

Commentary

  • Here the Court sought to ensure that rules of jurisdiction do not hamper national courts from enforcing the primacy of EC law over national laws