Petitions are a form of direct participation of citizens in the process of governance. Every citizen may submit petitions individually or in association with other citizens. A petition may take the form of a request, suggestion or a proposal relating to any matters associated with public life.
The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2 April 1997 (Journal of Laws No. 78, item 483) in the section “Political freedoms and rights”, article 63, provides for the possibility of submitting petitions, proposals and complaints. The provision states that everyone shall have the right to submit petitions, proposals and complaints in the public interest, in his or her own interest or in the interest of another person – with his or her consent – to public authorities, as well as to organizations and social institutions in connection with the performance of their tasks. It further states that the procedure of examining petitions may be regulated in an act of law.
Non-governmental organisations have long advocated that this constitutional mandate should be used to implement the right to petition. Petitions became the subject of deliberations of the Parliamentary Team for Cooperation with Non-Governmental Organisations, chaired by the Marshal of the Senate. The Team concluded that it was necessary to draft an act on petitions which would guarantee the exercise of this constitutional right.
A debate on the institution of petitions was held during the 22nd session of the Senate of the Republic of Poland on 20 November 2008. To enable the citizens to exercise their right to petition, the chamber changed its Rules of Procedure. The main aim of these changes, which entered into force on 1 January 2009, was to extend the powers of the Senate Committee for Human Rights and Rule of Law so as to include petition-related issues. The Committee itself was renamed the Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Petitions Committee. A new section Xa “Examination of petitions” was also added to the Rules of Procedure of the Senate, setting out work procedures for the Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Petitions Committee in petition-related matters.
At its 74th session on 14 April 2011, the Senate resolved to submit a draft of the petition act to the Sejm (Lower House of the Polish Parliament).