Budapest (MTI) – Hungary’s Constitutional Court ruled on Friday that the provisions concerning the supreme administrative court in the law on public administration court procedures are unconstitutional. The ruling is in keeping with the opinion of President János Áder.
The top court endorsed Áder’s criticism of the provisions, saying they violate legal certainty and the requirement of constitutionality because they would require two-thirds majority backing by parliament instead of a simple majority.
Parliament has already approved the law, which was to have entered force on January 1, 2018, but following the court’s ruling it must be reconsidered.
Last September, the justice minister, László Trócsányi, dismissed claims that the new administrative court would serve political purposes, saying the court would deal with 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 complained 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.”
Commenting on the Constitutional Court’s decision, the Socialists said the prime minister, the justice minister and all of ruling Fidesz needed to understand that “since the voters have taken the two-thirds majority away from them, there won’t be a Fidesz party court.” The Socialist Party will not support “Fidesz party soldiers skydiving into the judiciary on the excuse of making structural changes”, Gergely Bárándy, deputy head of parliament’s legislative committee, said in a statement. He said the party considered it “especially shameful” that the justice minister had supported “launching another attack on the independence of the judiciary” by “unconstitutionally bypassing the two-thirds law”.
The opposition LMP party said in reaction to the court ruling that from the point of view of the rule of law, the Constitutional Court had brought about a “good decision”. Ákos Csarnó, LMP’s public administration spokesman, told a news conference that the government, with a simple majority in parliament, had attempted to bypass the cardinal provisions and secure the law without the necessary two-thirds majority.
He said LMP may support restoration of administrative jurisdiction if its own proposals set down earlier are taken into account during the legislative process.
The justice ministry said it will initiate a new parliamentary debate on the law so that lawmakers can vote on it again in February this year. The ministry said its goal is to correct the criticised provisions so that the law can enter into force on January 1, 2018 as originally planned. It also welcomed the court’s assessment that there is a need for a complete renewal of public administrative procedural law in Hungary, adding that the establishment of an independent public administrative procedural code is part of the development of law in Europe.