Budapest, September 2 (MTI) – The justice minister, László Trócsányi, has dismissed claims that the new administrative court would serve political purposes.
In an interview to the Friday edition of Népszabadság, Trócsányi said plans for the court had been long in the making and would apply to citizens or legal entities involved in a lawsuit with a public authority in cases concerning, for example, permission to continue an activity.
Here it is not the rules of the civil courts that should apply, he said. Instead, an independent public administrative procedural code is needed. He said that with the exception of Slovakia, every European Union member state operates such a system.
Commenting on the government’s selection of public administration court judges, he said it was “simply untrue” that they were looking to appoint judges close to those in power.
Opposition parties complain that the new court would have the power to judge legal disputes over decisions made by the Media authority, the National Bank of Hungary, the Public Procurement Arbitration Board and the National Election Committee.
One Socialist lawmaker said: “This is as if the accused were to choose the jury members from among his family members.”
The minister said the head of the National Justiciable Office (OBH) would not have the right of veto over the naming of judges. Referring to constitutional concerns brought up by OBH leaders, Trócsányi insisted, however, that “as a former constitutional judge … there are no plans that are grounds for concern.” He added that the OBH would not be stripped of its rights in connection with the head of courts and only the conditions for appointing judges would be changed. The constitution does not exclude this possibility, the minister said.
Trócsányi said the establishment of the administrative court did not conflict with the constitution. Neither does the condition that the head of the court is to be chosen with the support of at least three members of a four-member committee comprising heads of the OBH, Constitutional Court, Kúria and Justice Ministry, he added.
The ministry has called a meeting of parliamentary parties for today to discuss a proposal to establish public administration courts in Hungary. The government wants to set up a system overseen by the Kúria, Hungary’s supreme court, the ministry said in a recent statement.
Trócsányi had raised the idea of public administration courts at his committee hearing before taking office on June 3, 2014.
Several opposition parties, the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK), Dialogue for Hungary (PM) and the Liberal Party protested against the plans. The Socialist Party, too, said it would boycott cross-party talks, insisting the new courts would dilute the accountability of the ruling Fidesz party and state authorities.
Meanwhile, on a separate matter Trócsányi later told a news conference that the ministry had submitted a bill to parliament on the new civil procedural code. The bill had been in the making since 2013, he said, adding that the government had approved the proposal to put together a new procedural code in January of 2015.
He said the aim was to establish a procedural code by which those involved in lawsuits bear a high degree of responsibility. Another aim of the new procedural code is to prevent lawsuits from getting overly drawn out, he said.
Under the new code, civil suits would be divided into two phases: a preparatory phase and the trial phase.
Trócsányi said the new procedural code also sets new rules for class action lawsuits.
The minister described his talks with four of the five the parliamentary parties on the establishment of public administration courts as professional. He said the ministry now awaits the parties’ professional proposals on the matter.
Responding to a question, Trócsányi said he did not believe that EU law had any bearing on the establishment of a public administrative procedural code. The new rules will create a transparent system, he insisted.
Trócsányi estimated that around 80 judges will be needed in the new system.
After the consultation, both the radical nationalist Jobbik party and LMP said they supported the establishment of the courts in principle but they cannot accept the proposals put forward by the justice ministry in their current form.