Budapest (MTI) – A Budapest court handling a lawsuit involving the lease of land used earlier as an organic farm to a private company has turned to the Constitutional Court over the matter, suspending the case until the top court completes a review of several laws governing land lease applications.
The lawsuit in question is the Rural Development Centre of Kishantos, an organic farm in central Hungary versus the National Land Management Fund (NFA). The centre wants the court to declare that the land lease applications opened by NFA in 2012 and the bidding process were unlawful.
In a ruling issued on Wednesday, the Municipal Court of Budapest requested that the Constitutional Court declare certain clauses of the national land fund law and the government decree regulating the use of lands managed by the fund unconstitutional. The Budapest court also appealed to the top court to declare that these clauses violate various international treaties and to annul them with retroactive effect.
The municipal court found that the clauses it referred to the top court were in breach of the principles of the rule of law and legal safety. It said the national land fund law did not prescribe any objective or transparent criteria regarding the evaluation of land lease applications.
The court also ruled that the clauses in question were unconstitutional because laws governing the acquisition and use of farmland should be two-thirds laws while the laws in question were not.
Further, the laws also violate of the UN anti-corruption convention, the court said. It said the sale or lease of state land also concerns public funds, but the laws in question do not present any objective criteria in terms of the land lease application process that could later serve as basis for determining whether the bidding process was conducted lawfully.
Disputes have been ongoing over the land leases in Kishantos since late 2013. In April 2014 the new leaseholders started to plough up the fields at the local farms. The organic farmers of the German-backed Kishantos Rural Development Centre, however, said that the newcomers were not “legally in possession” of the area, as there were several legal disputes over rights to the land still under way.
Earlier this year, the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, upheld a ruling by a lower court finding the state at fault for leasing the plot to Mezovidek, a private company. The court said Mezovidek had not conducted any farming activities and was ineligible to hold the land under the tender’s criteria.
The Kishantos Rural Development Centre was set up under an agreement between the Hungarian and German governments 16 years ago. It operated on 452 hectares of state-owned land and produced the highest-grade organic seeds, as well as offering courses to farmers and carrying out agricultural research.