There is no legal justification to stop the spring hunting referendum from going ahead, Simon Busuttil is expected to tell the Constitutional Court in response to hunters’ objections.

Contrary to submissions made by two hunting organisations, the Opposition leader will argue that the referendum would not go against the provisions of Malta’s EU Accession Treaty. The law does not allow voters to seek an abrogative referendum to annul certain laws, including fiscal legislation, treaties and the electoral law.

Hunters sought to block the spring hunting referendum, claiming it would breach the provisions of Malta’s EU treaty, in arguments it submitted last month to the Constitutional Court.

But in a submission he is expected to file in the coming days, Dr Busuttil will argue a referendum to annul certain laws is a civil right and must not be limited except for the provisions already outlined at law.

The declaration is expected to pour cold water on hunters’ objections that a referendum to abolish spring hunting would be an affront to the rights of a minority.

Hunters have separately petitioned Parliament to change the Referenda Act so that abrogative referenda would not be held on “minority rights and interests”, roping in other interest groups such as fireworks enthusiasts and motor sport aficionados.

Last week, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, through the Attorney General’s office, dismissed the hunters’ request for the court to reject the anti-spring-hunting petition.

The government rejected hunters’ claims that the process used by the Electoral Commission to verify the petition signatures was illegal. It also shot down the argument that the referendum breached the EU treaty.

A coalition of green groups collected more than the necessary signatures to call for a referendum to strike off the legal notice that makes spring hunting possible.

The final word as to whether the referendum can be held rests with the Constitutional Court. A decision is expected towards the end of the year.

The earliest the referendum can be held is April next year and the latest July.

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