In this case, a Dutch court was faced with a dispute which called into question a Commission regulation on sugar which was materially identical to a Commission regulation on poultry meat. Sounds weird doesn't it, but it is possible because both regulations concerned import duties to be levied on the products and not the products themselves. The Commission regulation on poultry meat had already been declared invalid by the Court of Justice in Case C-317/99 Kloosterboer Rotterdam BV v Minister van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij. So, could the Dutch court seised of the dispute concerning the validity of the sugar regulation just refer to Case C-317/99 and declare it invalid or must the court refer the issue of validity to the Court of Justice ?
The Court held that the Dutch court must refer the question on the validity of the sugar regulation to it under Article 234 EC even though the poultry meat regulation had already been declared invalid by the Court.
The Court recalled :
a) a national court of last resort must refer a question to the Court of Justice on the interpretation of EC law except when either that issue is irrelevant to the domestic proceedings or the question has already arisen or is so obvious there is no doubt what the answer will be. That's what Case 283/81 CILFIT and Case C-495/03 Intermodal Transports BV v Staatssecretaris van Financiën already decided.
b) national courts have no jurisdiction themselves to rule on the validity of acts of the EC institutions. They must refer the issue of the validity of the Community measure to the Court of Justice. That's what Case 314/85 Foto-Frost decided.
c) The rule in b) is qualified in cases of interim measures. In those cases the national court may suspend the Community measure before making the reference under Article 234 EC. That's the consequence of Case 314/85 Foto-Frost and most recently Case C-465/93 Atlanta Fruchthandelsgesellschaft mbH and others v Bundesamt für Ernährung und Forstwirtschaft.
But the Court makes clear in this recent case that the rule in CILFIT - which applies when issues of interpretation arise - must not be extended to questions of the validity of Community acts. The Court recalls that the main purpose of its jurisdiction conferred by Article 234 EC is to ensure that Community law is applied uniformly by national courts. Having national courts ruling differently from one another on the validity of Community acts is just not on.