Costa Rica 1949 Constitution (reviewed 2020)

Table of Contents

Title IX. The Legislative Power

Chapter I. Organization of the Legislative Assembly

Article 105

The power to legislate resides in the People, who delegate it to the Legislative Assembly through suffrage. Such power may not be renounced or be subjected to limitations through any agreement or contract, directly or indirectly, except for the treaties, accordingly to the principles of International Law.

The People may also exercise this power through the referendum, to approve or to abrogate laws and partial reforms of the Constitution, when convoked by at least five percent (5%) of the citizens inscribed in the electoral roll; the Legislative Assembly, through the approval of the two-thirds part of the total of its members, or the Executive Power jointly with the absolute majority of the totality of the members of the Legislative Assembly.

The referendum will not proceed if the bills are relative to budgetary, tax, fiscal, monetary, credit, pension [or] security matters [or matters of] approval of loans and contracts or acts of an administrative nature.

This institution will be regulated by law, approved by the two-thirds part of the totality of the members of the Legislative Assembly.

Article 106

The Deputies hold this character by the Nation and will be elected by provinces.

The Assembly is composed of fifty-seven Deputies. Each time a general population census is realized, the Supreme Tribunal of Elections will assign to the provinces the deputations, in proportion to the population of each one of them.

Article 107

The Deputies will remain in their offices for four years and may not be reelected in [a] successive form.

Article 108

To be a Deputy it is required to:

  1. Be a citizen in exercise;
  2. Be Costa Rican by birth, or by naturalization with ten years of residence in the country after having obtained the nationality;
  3. Be already twenty-one years old.

Article 109

[The following] may not be elected Deputies, or register as candidates to that function:

  1. The President of the Republic or whoever substitutes him in the exercise of the Presidency at the time of the election;
  2. The Ministers of Government;
  3. The titular Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice;
  4. The titular and substitute Magistrates of the Supreme Tribunal of Elections, and the Director of the Civil Registry;
  5. The military [personnel] on active service;
  6. Those who exercise jurisdiction, civil or police authority, extensive to a province;
  7. The managers of the autonomous institutions;
  8. The relatives of whoever exercises the Presidency of the Republic within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, inclusive.

These incompatibilities will affect whoever performs the indicated offices within the six months prior to the date of the election.

Article 110

The Deputies are not responsible for the opinions they emit at the Assembly. During the sessions they may not be arrested for a civil cause, except [by] authorization of the Assembly or that the Deputy consents to it.

From the moment they are declared elected titular or substitute, until their legal period ends, they may not be deprived of their freedom for a penal motive, except when they have been previously suspended by the Assembly. This immunity has no effect in the case of flagrante delicto, or when the Deputy renounces it. Nevertheless, the Deputies who have been detained for flagrante delicto, will be released if the Assembly orders it.

Article 111

No Deputy may accept, after [taking] the oath, under penalty of losing their credential, office or employment of the other Powers of the State or of the autonomous institutions, except when it concerns a Ministry of Government. In this case they will be reinstated to the Assembly at the ceasing of their functions.

This prohibition does not rule [no rige] for those being called to be part of international delegations, or to those performing offices in charitable institutions, or to professors of the University of Costa Rica or of other institutions of superior education of the State.

Article 112

The legislative function is also incompatible with the exercise of any other public office of popular election.

The Deputies may not celebrate, directly or indirectly, or through representation, any contract with the State, or obtain concession of public assets that imply privilege, or intervene as directors, administrators or managers in enterprises that contract with the State, works, supplies, or exploitation of public services.

The violation of any of the prohibitions written in this Article or the previous one, will produce the loss of the credential of Deputy. The same will occur if in the exercise of a Ministry of Government, the Deputy would incur in any of those prohibitions.

The deputies must fulfill the duty of probity. The violation of this duty will result in the loss of the credential of deputy, in the cases and in accordance with the procedures that a law will establish which will be approved by two-thirds of the total of the members of the Legislative Assembly.

Article 113

The law will establish the assignment and the technical and administrative aids granted to the Deputies.

Article 114

The Assembly will reside in the capital of the Republic, and to either transfer its seat to another place or to suspend its sessions for a determined time, two-thirds of the votes of the total of its members will be required.

Article 115

The Assembly will elect its Directorate [Directorio] at the beginning of each legislature.

The President and the Vice President must meet the same conditions as required to be President of the Republic. The President of the Assembly will take the oath before him and the Deputies before the President.

Article 116

The Legislative Assembly will meet every year on the first day of May, even if it has not been convoked, and its ordinary sessions will last six months, divided in two periods: from the first of August to the thirty-first of October, and from the first of February to the thirtieth of April.

One Legislature includes the ordinary and extraordinary sessions celebrated between the first of May and the following thirtieth of April.

Article 117

The Assembly may not effect its sessions without the attendance of two-thirds of the total of its members.

If on the specified day it was impossible to initiate the sessions, or if opened, they could not continue due to lack [falta] of quorum, the members present will order the absent-ones, under the sanctions established by the Regulations, for them to attend, and the Assembly will open or continue the sessions when the required number is met.

The sessions will be public except [if] for very qualified reasons and [reasons] of general appropriateness it is agreed that they be secret[,] by a vote of no less than the two-thirds part of the Deputies present.

Article 118

The Executive Power may convoke the Legislative Assembly to extraordinary sessions. In these[,] it will not take cognizance of matters different [from] those expressed in the decree of convocation, except [if] it concerns [se trate] the appointing of functionaries that corresponds to the Assembly to make, or the legal reforms that are indispensable to resolve [resolver] the matters submitted to its cognizance.

Article 119

The resolutions of the Assembly will be taken by [an] absolute majority of votes present, except in the cases in which this Constitution demands a greater vote.

Article 120

The Executive Power will make available to the Legislative Assembly, the police force requested by [its] President.

Chapter II. Attributions of the Legislative Assembly

Article 121

In addition to the other attributions that this Constitution confers on it, it corresponds exclusively to the Legislative Assembly:

  1. To adopt the laws, to reform them, to derogate them and to give to them authentic interpretation, except [for] that said in the chapter referring to the Supreme Tribunal of Elections;
  2. To designate the premises for its sessions, to open and to close them and to suspend them and to continue them when it agrees on it:
  3. To appoint the titular and the substitute Magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice;
  4. To approve or to disapprove the international agreements, public treaties and concordats.The public treaties and international agreements, that attribute or transfer specific competences to a community juridical order, with the purpose of realizing regional and common objectives, will require the approval of the Legislative Assembly, by a vote of no less than the two-thirds of the totality of its members.

    The protocols of lesser rank, derived from public treaties or international agreements approved by the Assembly, will not require legislative approval when these instruments expressly authorize such derivation.

  5. To give or not its assent for the entrance of foreign troops into the national territory and for the stationing of ships of war in the ports and airports;
  6. To authorize the Executive Power to declare the state of national defense and to agree to peace;
  7. To suspend by a vote of no less than the two-thirds of the totality of its members, in the case of evident public necesity, the individual rights and guarantees written in Articles 22, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 30 and 37 of this Constitution. This suspension may be of all or of some rights and guarantees, for the totality or part of the territory, and [for] up to thirty days; during this, and with regard to persons, the Executive Power may only order their detention in establishments not allocated to common inmates, or decree their confinement to inhabited places. It must also give account to the Assembly at its next meeting on the measures taken to safeguard the public order or to maintain the security of the State.In no case may individual rights and guarantees not written in this paragraph be suspended;
  8. To receive the oath of law and to take cognizance of the resignations of the members of the Supreme Powers, with the exception of the Ministers of Government; to decide on the doubts that may occur in the case of physical or mental incapacity of who is exercising the Presidency of the Republic, and to declare if [the person] who must substitute [for] him must be called to the exercise of the Power;
  9. To admit or not the accusations interposed against whoever is exercising the Presidency of the Republic, Vice Presidents, members of the Supreme Powers and Diplomatic Ministers, declaring by the two-thirds part of votes of the total of the Assembly if [a] cause should be formed or not against them, placing them, in [the] affirmative case, at the disposition of the Supreme Court of Justice for its judgment;
  10. To decree the suspension of any of the functionaries mentioned in the preceding paragraph, when proceeding against them for common crimes;
  11. To adopt the ordinary and extraordinary budgets of the Republic;
  12. To appoint the Comptroller and Sub-Controller General of the Republic;
  13. To establish the national taxes and contributions, and to authorize the municipal ones;
  14. To decree the sale or the application to public uses of the assets proprietary to the Nation.[The following] may not be definitively outside of the domain of the State:
    1. The power that may be obtained from the waters of the public domain in the national territory;
    2. The deposits of coal, the sources and deposits of oil, and any other hydrocarbon substances, as well as the deposits of radioactive minerals existing in the national territory;
    3. The wireless services.

    The assets mentioned in paragraphs a), b), and c) above may only be exploited by the public administration[,] or by individuals [particulares], in accordance with the law or through special concession granted for a limited time and in accordance with the conditions and stipulations established by the Legislative Assembly.

    The national railroads, docks and airports–the latter while in service–may not be sold, leased or imposed with taxes, directly or indirectly, or be outside of the domain and control of the State in any form.

  15. To approve or disapprove the loans or similar agreements that relate to the public credit, celebrated by the Executive Power.To effect the contracting of loans abroad or for those that, even when agreed in the country, will be financed with foreign capital, it is necessary that the respective bill be approved by the two-thirds part of the total of the votes of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
  16. To grant honorary citizenship for notable services provided to the Republic, and to decree honors to the memory of the persons whose eminent performances have made them entitled to those distinctions.
  17. To determine the law of the monetary unit and to legislate on the currency, the credit, the weights and measures. To determine the law of the monetary unit, the Assembly must previously collect the opinion of the technical organ in charge of the monetary regulation;
  18. To promote the progress of the sciences and the arts and to assure for a limited time, to the authors and inventors, the property of their respective works and inventions;
  19. To create establishments for the teaching and progress of the sciences and of the arts, specifying incomes for their sustainment and specially to procure the generalization of the elementary education;
  20. To create the Tribunals of Justice and the other organs for the national service;
  21. To grant by [the] vote of no less than the two-thirds part of the totality of its members, general amnesty and pardons for political crimes, with the exception of the electoral ones, with regard to which there can be no pardon;
  22. To give itself the Regulations for its internal regime, which, once adopted, may not be modified except by [the] vote of no less than the two-thirds part of the total of its members;
  23. To appoint commissions from within to investigate any matter entrusted to them by the Assembly, and to render the corresponding report.The Commissions will have free access to all the official dependencies to realize the investigations and collect the data they judge necessary. They may receive all kinds of evidence and make any person appear before them, with the purpose of questioning them;
  24. To formulate interpellations to the Ministers of Government, and furthermore, by two-thirds of [the] votes present, censure the same functionaries, when in the opinion of the Assembly they are guilty of unconstitutional or illegal acts, or of grave errors that have caused or may cause evident prejudice to the public interests.The matters in process of a diplomatic character or those referring to pending military operations are excepted from both cases.

Article 122

The Assembly is prohibited from giving votes of applause [votos de aplauso/votes of approval or thanks] regarding official acts, as well as recognizing[,] to the responsibility of the Public Treasury[,] obligations that have not been previously declared by the Judicial Power, or accepted by the Executive Power, or to grant scholarships, pensions, retirements or gratifications.

Chapter III. Formation of the Laws

Article 123

During the ordinary sessions, the initiative to form the laws corresponds to any member of the Legislative Assembly, to the Executive Power, through the Ministers of Government and to five percent (5%) as [a] minimum, of the citizens registered in the electoral roll, if the bill is of popular initiative.

The popular initiative will not proceed when it concerns bills relative to budgetary, tax, [or] fiscal matters, [or matters] of approval of loans and contracts or acts of [an] administrative nature.

The bills of law of popular initiative must be voted definitively within the peremptory time period indicated in the law, except those of constitutional reform, which will follow the process specified in Article 195 of this Constitution.

A law adopted by the two-thirds part of the total of the members of the Legislative Assembly, will regulate the form, the requirements and the other conditions that must be fulfilled by the bills of law of popular initiative.

Article 124

To become [a] law, all bills must be the object of two debates, each one on a different non-consecutive day, obtain the approval of the Legislative Assembly and the sanction of the Executive Power; additionally, they must be published in La Gaceta [the Official Journal], without prejudice to the requirements that this Constitution establishes both for special cases and for those decided by popular initiative and referendum, according to Articles 102, 105, 123 and 129 of this Constitution. The agreements taken in use of the attributions enumerated in paragraphs 2), 3), 5), 6), 7), 8), 9), 10), 12), 16), 21), 22), 23) and 24) of Article 121[,] as well as the legislative act to convoke to referendum, which will be voted in a sole session and must be published in La Gaceta[,] will not have the character of laws or require, therefore, the previous proceedings.

The Legislative Assembly may delegate, in permanent commissions, the cognizance and the approval of bills of law. However, the Assembly may retract to itself [avocar], at any moment, the debate or the vote of the bills that have been [the] object of delegation.

The delegation does not proceed if it concerns the bills of law relative to electoral matters, to the creation of national taxes or to the modification of the existing [ones], to the exercise of the faculties specified in paragraphs 4), 11), 14), 15) and 17) of Article 121 of the Political Constitution, to the convocation to a Constituent Assembly, to any effect, and to the partial reform of the Political Constitution.

The Assembly will appoint the permanent commissions with full legislative power, in [a] manner that their composition reflects, proportionally, the number of Deputies of the political parties that compose it. The delegation must be approved by [a] majority of two-thirds of the totality of the members of the Assembly, and the retraction, by [an] absolute majority of the Deputies present.

The Regulations of the Assembly will regulate the number of these commissions and the other conditions for the delegation and the retraction, as well as the procedures to be applied in these cases.

The legislative approval of contracts, agreements and other acts of an administrative nature, will not give those acts [the] character of laws, even if is done through the ordinary processing of them.

Article 125

If the Executive Power does not approve the bill of law voted by the Assembly, it will veto it and return it with the pertinent objections. The veto does not proceed regarding the bill that approves the Ordinary Budget of the Republic.

Article 126

Within the ten working days counted from the date on which a bill of law approved by the Legislative Assembly has been received, the Executive Power may object to it because it judges it inappropriate or believes [crea] it necessary to make reforms to it; in the latter case it will propose them when returning the bill. The Executive Power may not refrain from [dejar de] sanctioning it and publishing it if it does not object to it within that time period.

Article 127

The bill [being] reconsidered by the Assembly, with the observations of the Executive Power, and if the Assembly rejects them and the bill is approved again by two-thirds of [the] votes of the total of its members, it will be sanctioned and will be ordered for execution as law of the Republic. If the proposed modifications are adopted, the bill will be returned to the Executive Power, which may not refuse the sanction of it. If they are rejected, and if the two-thirds of [the] votes to reseal it are not met, it will be archived and may not be considered until the next legislature.

Article 128

If the veto is founded on reasons of unconstitutionality not accepted by the Legislative Assembly, it will send the legislative decree to the Chamber indicated in Article 10, for it to resolve the dispute within the following thirty calendar days from the date on which it receives the file [expediente]. The provisions declared unconstitutional will be considered rejected and the others will be sent to the Legislative Assembly for the corresponding proceedings. The same will be done with the bill of law approved by the Legislative Assembly, when the Chamber declares that it does not contain unconstitutional provisions.

Article 129

The laws are obligatory and take effect from the day that they designate; in absence of this requirement, ten days after their publication in the Diario Oficial.

No one may allege ignorance of the law except in the cases that it authorizes.

The renunciation of the laws in general does not have efficacy, or the specific [renunciation] of those of public interest.

The acts and agreements contrary to the prohibitive laws will be null, if the same laws do not provide otherwise.

A law is not abrogated or derogated except by a subsequent one; disuse, custom or practice to the contrary may not be alleged against its observance. By way of referendum, the People may abrogate it or derogate it, in accordance with Article 105 of this Constitution.