22 May 2017
Brief history of the Constitutional Court of Hungary
In January 1989, the Parliament had decided on the establishment of a constitutional court, however, its structure and competences were formed later on by the trilateral political negotiations. Accordingly, the Parliament amended the Constitution in October 1989 by inserting Article 32/A that regulated a new institution of Hungarian public law: the Constitutional Court. The Act XXXII. of 1989 on the Constitutional Court was adopted on 19 October 1989 and it entered into force on 30 October. On 23 November 1989 the Parliament elected the first five judges of the Court, which commenced its operation on 1 January 1990. Five additional members were elected by the new, freely elected Parliament in the mid-1990s.
The Constitutional Court had an important role in the new democracy: it was one of the guarantees of the rule of law by practicing constitutional review of laws. Most of the petitions were aimed at posterior constitutional review, and they were submitted by individuals. The Court also performed ex ante reviews which had outstanding political and constitutional importance. By performing this competence the Court adjudicated the Compensation Act (Decision 28/1991), the Retroactive Justice case (Decision 11/1992), hate speech cases (Decisions 95/2008 and 96/2009) and the law on restraining order (Decision 53/2009). Other important competences were the examination of legislative omissions, the interpretation of the Constitution, and providing remedy in referendum cases.
The Court had an outstanding role in the protection of individual fundamental rights, for example with its decisions on capital punishment, on abortion (Decision 64/1991 and 48/1998) and on euthanasia (Decision 22/2003).
The Court has also elaborated some important doctrines, such as the theory of the “invisible Constitution” and it also adopted the concept of “living law”.
In January 2000, the Court held a scientific conference to commemorate the tenth anniversary of its operation (you can read more about the conference in this link).
In 2009, the Court organised an international conference to celebrate the twenty years of its operation (you can read more about the conference in this link).
In 2010, some rules regarding the Court were modified (the rules of nominating the Judges were modified and the competence of the Constitutional Court was restricted in State budgetary issues and regulations on central taxes and contributions).
In 2011, the number of the judges was changed and since September 2011 the Court has had fifteen members.
In 2011, Hungary has adopted a new constitution: the Fundamental Law. It entered into force on 1st January 2012. The Fundamental Law and the new Act on the Constitutional Court (Act CLI of 2011, hereinafter: ACC) introduced significant changes.
The Constitutional Court is the principal organ for the protection of the Fundamental Law. The Constitutional Court is seated in Budapest. The Court has an important role in protecting the democratic State governed by the rule of law, the constitutional order, the rights guaranteed in the Fundamental Law and in safeguarding the inner coherence of the legal system. The competence, organisation and operation of the Constitutional Court are regulated by the ACC.