The Constitution of the Republic of Poland is the supreme Polish legal document and the basis of the political system of the Polish State.
It guarantees civil rights and freedoms, determines the relationships between the legislative, executive and judiciary powers, decides about the structure and method of appointing the highest state institutions such as the Sejm and Senate (the lower and upper chamber of the Polish parliament), the President, and the Council of Ministers (Cabinet); and it directly influences the structure of the judiciary, territorial, and administrative bodies, and the supervisory agencies which exercise control on behalf of the State. It also regulates issues related to the organization of government and administration, public finance, and extreme situations (states of emergency).
Poland is a pioneer of European constitutionalism. In 1791 the King and Parliament of the Republic of Poland and Lithuania passed the first constitution in the Old World, later called the 3rd of May Constitution.
The current Constitution of the Republic of Poland, passed by the National Assembly (viz. the Sejm and Senate sitting in a joint session) on April 2nd, 1997, was approved by the Nation in the Constitutional Referendum of May 25th of the same year. It was signed by the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski, on July 16th, 1997, and came into effect as of October 17th, 1997.
Prior to that there was a Small Constitution in effect, which amended the main articles of the Stalinist constitution of 1952 and formed the legal basis of the Polish State between 1990 and 1997.
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The Constitution of the Republic of Poland guarantees respect for all the civil rights - the personal, political, economic, social and cultural rights and freedoms - regarded as standard for a democratic country.
The Constitution guarantees all Polish citizens and persons in Poland equality in the eyes of the law (irrespectively of sex, race, religion, profession, origin, or education), personal freedom and inviolability, inviolability of the home, freedom of conscience and religion, the right to a fair trial (with presumption of innocence until proved guilty), and legal protection of life.
The Constitution also protects the right to the inviolability of correspondence; the individual's freedom to express his/her views; his/her freedom of speech, organisation and peaceful assembly; to contribute to the public services; the individual citizen's right to vote and stand for election to the government of the Republic; and to receive full information about the operations of public authorities.
The Polish Constitution also protects the rights of ownership and inheritance, freedom of choice of profession, the right to appropriate safety conditions in the workplace; it guarantees minimum wages, protection of health and social benefits, as well as the right to education (education is mandatory until the age of 18). The Constitution also grants freedom of artistic expression, scientific and scholarly research, freedom to teach, and to enjoy cultural heritage.
The Constitution of the Republic of Poland affords special protection for the welfare of families and the rights of children.
The Polish Constitution imposes certain obligations that Polish citizens bear towards the state. The primary obligation is loyalty to the Republic and concern for the common good.
All the organs of the Polish State are charged with the upholding of and compliance with the Constitution. This is the special duty of the Constitutional Tribunal, a court appointed to supervise the constitutionality of laws. Every Polish citizen has the right to bring a complaint to the Constitutional Tribunal against any breach of the Constitution.