The state of danger affects the operation and the responsibility of the Constitutional Court as well

20 April 2020

The Constitutional Court, as the principal organ for the protection of the Fundamental Law, shall examine at all times whether the judicial decisions and the laws comply with the criteria of constitutionality laid down in the Fundamental Law.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, and in particular in the present special legal order, the Constitutional Court has to perform its duties with enhanced responsibility. Taking the above aspects into account, the president of the Constitutional Court Tamás Sulyok has in the past weeks and days taken several measures aimed at maintaining the operability of the Constitutional Court, in order to allow the bodies to hold sittings and make decisions – along with safeguarding the health of the members and the staff members of the Constitutional Court.

The president of the Constitutional Court ordered, among others, the staff members of the Constitutional Court to perform their work from their home – provided that the nature of their job allows this and its conditions are secured – until the end of the state of danger announced because of the coronavirus epidemic. The secretary general of the Constitutional Court shall be in charge of providing the IT background for home office. The state of danger may have a limited influence on completing the cases within the specified deadline, which would be surely acknowledged by the affected parties. However, the Constitutional Court shall pay a special attention to the decisions of the Government adopted during the period of the state of danger and that affect the whole of the society.

In order to allow the bodies to make decisions also during the period of the state of danger – in accordance with the provisions of the Act – the plenary session and the panels of the Constitutional Court shall hold sittings in the form of video conferences until the end of the state of danger.

The president of the Constitutional Court also ruled that in the case of petitions, missing documents may also be submitted by electronic means, provided that the submitted missing documents clarify the person of the petitioner and the reference file number of the case.

Constitutional complaints shall furthermore be sent to the court of first instance; in such cases the general rules of communication by electronic means shall be applicable. No petition by electronic means shall be submitted directly to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court shall also process requests received through the client gate, but no petition through the client gate shall be submitted to the Constitutional Court.

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Order of the President of the Constitutional Court

on the organisational, operational, administrative and decision-preparing measures connected to the continuous operation of the Constitutional Court during the state of danger

After the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the Constitutional Court maintains its operability regarding the performance of its basic duties; the processing of the cases and the preparation of the decisions is carried out on a continuous basis, even within the altered circumstances. In order to maintain the operability of the Constitutional Court and to allow the bodies to hold sittings and make decisions – along with safeguarding the health of the members and the staff members of the Constitutional Court – I order the following measures on the basis of Section 5 of the Act XII of 2020 on the containment of coronavirus, with due account to the recommendations made by the secretary general of the Constitutional Court.

  1. Home office

Until the end of the state of danger announced due to the coronavirus epidemic (hereinafter: “state of danger”), the persons employed in the Office of the Constitutional Court in public service relationship, employment relationship or in other contractual relationship (hereinafter jointly: “employees of the Office of the Constitutional Court”) shall carry out their work from home, provided that the nature of their job allows this and its technical and personal conditions are secured. Home office shall not pose a risk regarding the performance of duties that require immediate action. The duties that require immediate action shall include in particular the ones related to the compliance with statutory and contractual deadlines, data security, the provision of IT services, the preservation and the safe operation of the Constitutional Court’s building. Only those employees of the Constitutional Court who perform duties that require immediate action necessary for the operation of the Office of the Constitutional Court shall be entitled to stay for a long period of time – for more than two hours continuously – in the building of the Constitutional Court, provided that their presence in the building is absolutely necessary. The heads of the individual organisational units shall inform by electronic means the president of the Constitutional Court (hereinafter: “president”) about the employees of the relevant organisational unit, who need to stay, in accordance with this provision, for a longer period of time in the building of the Constitutional Court. The secretary general of the Constitutional Court (hereinafter: “secretary general”) shall be in charge of providing the safe IT background for home office.

  1. Sittings of the plenary session and of the panels during the period of the state of danger.

From 1 April 2020 to the end of the state of danger, the plenary session and the panels of the Constitutional Court shall hold their sitting by using electronic means of communication that allows the identification of the participants of the sitting as well as the mutual and unrestricted communication between them (hereinafter: “video conference”). The secretary general shall be in charge of securing the safe IT background for the video conference.

By derogation from Section 9 (3) of the Rules of Procedure, the five-member panel shall have quorum if at least four members are present at the sitting.

By derogation from Section 45 (4) of the Rules of Procedure, the Justice of the Constitutional Court shall make written comments on the draft, presenting his or her reasoned position differing from the one contained in the argumentation of the draft. In the absence of such a comment, the Justice of the Constitutional Court shall be presumed to agree with the draft and its reasoning.

If the adjudication of the case is simple, and no written comment according to Section 42 (4) of the Rules of Procedure has been submitted to the draft, the Constitutional Court shall proceed by applying the rules of simplified procedure according to Section 44 (2) of the Rules of Procedure, and it shall not require a preliminary proposal by the rapporteur. In the simplified procedure the body shall decide with voting without discussion on the designated day of the sitting. In the case of draft rulings, the simple adjudication of the case shall be presumed. In justified cases, by derogation from this provision, the president or the presiding judge of the panel may order holding a discussion in the case.

Section 44 (3) of the Rules of Procedure shall not be applicable.

With respect to Section 60 (1) to (2) of the Rules of Procedure, during the state of danger, all Justices of the Constitutional Court participating in the decision-making, with the exception of the president and the presiding judges of the panels shall be presumed to be unable to sign, therefore, the president shall sign the decision on behalf of them in the case of a decision adopted in the plenary session, and by the presiding judge of the panel in the case of a decision adopted in a panel.

According to Section 66 (3) of the Rules of Procedure, in the case of rejecting a constitutional complaint, in the reasoning of a ruling with a short reasoning, the presentation of the facts of the case shall only contain the subject matter of the basic case, and the presentation of the parts of the judicial decision adopted in the basic case that are not absolutely necessary for summarising the constitutional problem shall be dispensed with. Similarly, the detailed presentation of the constitutional complaint shall also be dispensed with; it shall be sufficient to indicate the provisions of the Fundamental Law referred to by the petitioner and to give a brief summary of the constitutional problem presented in the constitutional complaint.

  1. Administrative questions

In the preparatory procedure carried out by the secretary general, missing documents may also be submitted by electronic means within the time limit of 30 days specified in Section 55 (3) of the Act CLI of 2011 on the Constitutional Court, provided that the submitted missing documents clarify the person of the petitioner and the reference file number of the case the submitted missing documents belong to. Sending to the e-mail address of the Constitutional Court an electronic document containing the missing document shall be regarded as submission by electronic means. In the course of submission by electronic means, PDF format shall be used. In the case of doubt, the submission of missing documents shall be presumed to be completed within the time limit of 30 days, however, in the case of a failure beyond doubt to comply with the time limit of 30 days, no application for extension may be submitted.

I request the secretary general to elaborate the detailed administrative provisions connected to this order and to inform the members and the staff members of the Constitutional Court – as well as the petitioners as necessary – thereon.

  1. According to Article 54 (2) of the Fundamental Law, under a special legal order, the operation of the Constitutional Court may not be restricted. In line with the above, in the present state of danger, every staff member of the Constitutional Court shall have the duty of maintaining the operability of the Constitutional Court, the continuity of preparing decisions as well as of providing for and maintaining the conditions of decision-making by the bodies.

Budapest, 31 March 2020

Dr. Tamás Sulyok