The applicant, Asen Georgiev Genov, is a Bulgarian national, who was born in 1969 and lives in Sofia. The case concerns the authorities’ refusal to register the new religious association of which Mr Genov was the chairman.
In January 2007, in Sofia, seven people decided to set up a new religious association, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – Sofia, Nadezhda. Mr Genov was appointed as chairman. A Bulgarian branch of ISKCON, based in India, had been registered as a religious organisation in 1991 and re-registered in March 2003. Mr Genov applied to the court for registration of the new association. The Department for Religious Matters observed that, in its beliefs and rites, the new association could not be distinguished from the one already registered. In March 2007 the court rejected Mr Genov’s application, finding that the name of the new association resembled that of the association which already existed, that the constitution was identical and that the stated aim of the new association to change the organisation of the already registered association created a risk of a schism among its members. Mr Genov appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the judgment. Mr Genov’s appeal on points of law was also dismissed. The Court of Cassation noted that the Religion Act expressly prohibited the registration of two religious organisations with the same name and the same head office. It noted that the new association was located in Sofia, exactly like the other one, despite the specific indication of a neighbourhood. It lastly found that such registration was only possible on the initiative of the parent organisation, which was not the case here.
Mr Genov argues that the refusal to register the association has entailed a violation of his rights under Articles 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) and 11 (freedom of assembly and association).
Press release ECHR 87 (2017) 17/3/2017