1) Ex ante review of conformity with the Fundamental Law (preliminary norm control)

2) Ex post review of conformity with the Fundamental Law (posterior norm control)

3) Judicial initiative for norm control in concrete cases

4) Constitutional complaint

5) Examination of conflicts with international treaties

6) Examination of parliamentary resolutions related to ordering referendum

7) Examination of the decision of the Parliament concerning the acknowledgment of an organisation performing religious activity

8) Opinion on the dissolution of a local representative body operating contrary to the Fundamental Law

9) Opinion on the Withdrawal of the Acknowledgment of a Church Operating Contrary to the Fundamental Law

10) Removal of the President of the Republic from office

11) Resolving conflicts of competence

12) Examination of local government decrees, public law regulatory instruments, and uniformity decisions

13) Interpretation of the Fundamental Law

14) The elimination of legislative omission

1) Ex ante review of conformity with the Fundamental Law (preliminary norm control)

Based on a petition containing an explicit request submitted by an authorised person (the Parliament or the President of the Republic), the Constitutional Court examines for conformity with the Fundamental Law the provisions of adopted but not yet promulgated Acts referred to in the petition. This competence of the Court extends to the preliminary review of the conformity of certain provisions of international treaties with the Fundamental Law.

Before the acknowledgement of the binding force of an international treaty by the President of the Republic, or in case the international treaty is promulgated by a Government decree, before the acknowledgement of the binding force of that treaty, the Government may request the Constitutional Court to carry out a preliminary review of the conformity of the international treaty or of its provisions with the Fundamental Law.

Considering the adopted Act being contrary to the Fundamental Law, the President of the Republic refers it to the Court instead of signing it (constitutional veto). In such case, the Court decides in extraordinary proceedings.

The Act CLI of 2011 (hereinafter: ACC) provides for the possibility of constitutional review of international agreements prior to their ratification. Such a petition may be submitted by the President of the Republic, the Government and one-quarter of the members of Parliament. In this competence the Court reviewed the regulations of the international agreement on the surrender procedure between the Member States of the EU and Iceland and Norway (Decision 32/2008).

2) Ex post review of conformity with the Fundamental Law (posterior norm control)

The rules regarding the posterior review have been significantly changed by the rules of the Fundamental Law. Until 31 December 2011 anyone without legal interest could submit a petition asking the constitutional review of a legal norm. According to the new rules, applicable from 1st January 2012 such a proceeding may only be initiated by the Government, by one-quarter of the members of Parliament,  by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights (ombudsman), by the president of the Curia and by the General Prosecutor. If, upon the petition, the challenged law is found to be contrary to the Fundamental Law, the Court annuls it. Generally, in such a case, the annulled law remains in force until publishing the Court’s decision, and the annulment does not concern the already existing legal relationships. In exceptional cases the Court may order the retroactive or the pro futuro annulment of the unconstitutional law, for the sake of legal certainty.

3) Judicial initiative for norm control in concrete cases

In cases of posterior norm control the Constitutional Court performs an abstract norm control where the object of the examination is the norm. The decision usually does not affect the concrete case which was the base of the petition. The situation is different if a judge, in the course of the adjudication of a concrete case in progress, is bound to apply a law that he or she perceives to be contrary to the Fundamental Law, or which has already been declared to be contrary to the Fundamental Law by the Constitutional Court. In this case the judge shall suspend the judicial proceedings and submit a petition to the Constitutional Court for declaring that the law or a provision thereof is contrary to the Fundamental Law, and/or for banning the application of the law contrary to the Fundamental Law. In this case the Constitutional Court may establish that the legal regulation or a provision thereof is contrary to the Fundamental Law and it may ban the application thereof in the concrete case or even generally.

4) Constitutional complaint

Constitutional complaints may be submitted at the Constitutional Court mainly when the right of the petitioner guaranteed by the Fundamental Law is violated by a judicial decision. Exceptionally, the constitutional complaint procedure may also be initiated when, due to the application of a law contrary to the Fundamental Law, or when such legal provision becomes effective, rights are violated directly, without a judicial decision. The constitutional complaint therefore is not a claim for judicial review and the Constitutional Court is not a forum for legal remedy in a concrete case.

Another important rule of the ACC is that the Constitutional Court admits the complaint only if a conflict with the Fundamental Law significantly affects the judicial decision, or the case raises constitutional law issues of fundamental importance.

According to the new rules, there are three types of proceedings based on constitutional complaint.

a) The first type of the constitutional complaint proceedings is the one that was available also based on the precedent Act on the Constitutional Court (1989). In this procedure a person or an organisation affected by the concrete case may submit a constitutional complaint according to 26 (1) of the ACC, in case their fundamental rights have been violated by the application of an unconstitutional law, and there is no other instrument for legal remedie.

The subject of the review is the law, the application of which led to the unconstitutionality. The legal consequences of the proceedings of the Court may be the annulment or exclusion of the application of the law found to be contrary to the Fundamental Law.

b) The second type of constitutional complaint is based on 26 (2) of the ACC. According to this, the Constitutional Court proceedings may also be initiated exceptionally if, due to the application of a law contrary to the Fundamental Law, or when such law becomes effective, rights were violated directly, without a judicial decision, and there is no procedure for legal remedy designed to repair the violation of rights, or the petitioner has already exhausted the possibilities for remedy. This means that in case of the second type of complaint proceedings there is no judicial decision, the violation of rights guaranteed in the Fundamental Law occurs directly. The subject of the examination is the legal norm itself.

c) With the third type of constitutional complaint the petitioner challenges a judicial decision. With the new Act on the Constitutional Court entering into force, the constitutional complaints may be submitted not only against the laws, but also against concrete judicial decisions. The person or organisation affected in concrete cases may turn to the Constitutional Court against the judicial decision that was contrary to the Fundamental Law if the decision made, regarding the merits of the case or other decisions terminating the judicial proceedings, violates their rights laid down in the Fundamental Law, and the possibilities for legal remedy have already been exhausted by the petitioner or no possibility for legal remedy is available for them. The subject of the examination is the judicial decision and not the law (similarly to the ”Urteilsverfassungsbeschwerde” in the German constitutional system). When the Court establishes that the judicial decision is contrary to the Fundamental Law, the Court shall annul the decision.

5) Examination of conflicts with international treaties

Upon the petition of one-quarter of the members of Parliament, the Government, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the President of the Curia, the General Prosecutor or even ex officio in the course of any of its proceedings, the Constitutional Court shall examine if laws are compatible with the provisions of an international treaty. Judges shall suspend judicial proceedings and initiate Constitutional Court proceedings if, in the course of the adjudication of a concrete case, they are bound to apply a law that they perceive to be contrary to an international treaty.

This competence creates further possibility to establish the coherence of Hungarian law and international legal orders, especially because the competence can also be performed ex officio.

6) Examination of parliamentary resolutions related to ordering referendum

Parliamentary resolutions ordering a referendum or dismissing the obligaroty ordering of a referendum may be reviewed by the Constitutional Court with regard to conformity with the Fundamental Law and legality, on the petition of anyone. The petition should arrive within fifteen days of the publication of the Parliament’s resolution. In this procedure the Constitutional Court carries out an examination regarding only the merits of the resolution if, between the authentication of the signature-collecting sheets and the ordering of the referendum the circumstances changed in a manner that may significantly affect the decision, and if these changes could not be taken into account by the National Election Committee or the Curia when making the decision on the authentication of the question or the decision on the review thereof. The Constitutional Court does not examine the merits of such petitions in which the petitioner refers to constitutional concerns regarding the content of the question or the authentication.

7) Examination of the decision of the Parliament concerning the acknowledgment of an organisation performing religious activity

Based on the petition of the concerned organisation performing religious activity, the Constitutional Court shall review the decision of the Parliament concerning the refusal of the acknowledgment as a Church of an organisation performing religious activity. The Constitutional Court shall examine the legality of the procedure for the acknowledgment as a Church. The Constitutional Court shall uphold the Parliament’s decision or annul it and call upon the Parliament to make a new decision.

8) Opinion on the Dissolution of a local representative body operating contrary to the Fundamental Law

On the Government’s proposal the Constitutional Court shall express an opinion on whether the operation of representative bodies of local governments and nationality self-governments is contrary to the Fundamental Law.

9) Opinion on the withdrawal of the acknowledgment of a Church operating contrary to the Fundamental Law

The acknowledgment of Churches whose operation is contrary to the Fundamental Law can be withdrawn by the Parliament. On the Government’s petition the Constitutional Court shall express an advance opinion on whether the operation of the acknowledged Church is contrary to the Fundamental Law based on the Act on the Freedom of Religion and Conscience and on Legal Status of Churches, Confessions and Religious Communities.

10) Removal of the President of the Republic from office

In accordance with Article 13 of the Fundamental Law, the Constitutional Court acts in proceedings aimed at the removal of the President of the Republic from office, based on a detailed proposal by a parliamentary resolution referring to the willful violation of the Fundamental Law or any Act in connection with the exercise of the President’s official functions or referring to an intentionally committed criminal offence. The Constitutional Court shall examine the legality of the motion and initiation of the impeachment proceedings. When exercising this competence, the Constitutional Court shall make a decision with the agreement of two thirds of the plenary session members present.

11) Resolving conflicts of competence

The Court may also resolve conflicts of competence among state organs, or among state organs and local governments.

It is outside the competence of the Constitutional Court to resolve conflicts of competence between administrative authorities and Courts. Making the decision on conflict of competences between local governments is the task of the Curia.

12) Examination of local government decrees, public law regulatory instruments, and uniformity decisions

During the proceedings of posterior norm control and constitutional complaint, the Constitutional Court shall only examine the conformity of local government decrees with the Fundamental Law if the purpose of the examination is the determination of conformity with the Fundamental Law exclusively, without considering whether the decree is contrary to other law. In the course of posterior norm control, in the course of norm control in concrete cases based on judicial initiative, on the basis of constitutional complaints and in the course of examinations of conformity with international treaties, the Constitutional Court shall review the conformity with the Fundamental Law or international treaties of normative decisions and orders and of decisions on the uniform application of the law.

13) Interpretation of the Fundamental Law

On the petition of the Parliament or of its standing committee, the President of the Republic or the Government, the Constitutional Court shall provide an interpretation of the provisions of the Fundamental Law regarding a certain constitutional issue, provided that the interpretation is directly deductible from the Fundamental Law.

As the Court previously stated, the interpretation, however, is not limited to this competence (Decision 36/1992), as during posterior review in each case exploring the meaning of the related constitutional provision shall be necessary. The competence of interpretation of the Fundamental Law set forth in the ACC also provides for the abstract interpretation of the Fundamental Law. Although the ACC indicates as a task of the Court to interpret “the provisions of the Fundamental Law”, the practice of the Court reveals the meaning of “certain provisions” not in themselves, but with regard to the constitutional system in its entirety.

The Court interprets its competence restrictively as it intends to refrain from overtaking the competence of other organs (especially ordinary courts) concerning interpreting statutory law. Therefore it shall decide on petitions related to the abstract interpretation of the Fundamental Law only if the constitutional problem directly derives, without the inclusion of another law, from the Fundamental Law.

14) Elimination of legislative omission

If the Constitutional Court, in its proceedings conducted in the exercise of its competences, establishes an omission on the part of the law-maker that results in violating the Fundamental Law, it shall call upon the organ that committed the omission to perform its legislative task and it shall set a time-limit for that. The legislative omission that results in violating the Fundamental Law means that the lawmaker fails to perform a task deriving from an international treaty, or a law was not adopted despite the fact that the lawmaker’s task derives from an explicit legal authorisation, or the law’s essential content that can be derived from the Fundamental Law is incomplete.

The conditions of initiating Constitutional Court proceedings

1. The right to initiate

The Constitutional Court proceeds on the basis of the petitions submitted by entities authorised to do so in accordance with the Fundamental Law and with the ACC.

In the course of constitutional complaint proceedings, legal representation is not mandatory. If the petitioner is represented by lawyers (attorneys-at-law or law firms), the right to represent has to be certified. Lawyers, attorneys-at-law, law firms or representatives of rights defender social organisations who have passed the bar examination may act as legal representatives. The counsel of a legal person or of other economic organisations shall enjoy the legal status of an attorney-at-law. Constitutional complaints may be submitted only by those who are concerned in the case before courts or authorities.

2. Submission of the petition

Written petitions for initiating proceedings shall be filed directly at the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court shall immediately inform the President of the Republic and the National Election Committee about the receipt of a petition on the examination of the Parliament’s resolution related to ordering a referendum.

Nevertheless, petitions for constitutional complaint – with the exception of rights violated directly, without a judicial decision – have to be filed at the court of first instance and they shall be addressed to the Constitutional Court. The court of first instance shall forward the constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court. The court may suspend the execution of the decision contested in the constitutional complaint until the Constitutional Court’s proceedings are concluded.

Exceptionally, the constitutional complaint may be submitted directly to the Constitutional Court, if rights were violated directly, without a judicial decision due to the application of a law contrary to the Fundamental Law, or when such law becomes effective, if there is no procedure for legal remedy designed to repair the violation of rights, or the petitioner has already exhausted the possibilities for remedy.

3. Substantive criteria of the petition

The petition must contain an explicit request. A petition is explicit if it clearly indicates the provision of an Act that establishes the competence of the Constitutional Court to adjudicate the petition, and establishes that the entity has the right to submit petitions; the reasons for initiating the proceedings and – in case of a constitutional complaint – the substance of the violation of the right guaranteed by the Fundamental Law; the provision of a law or the judicial decision to be examined by the Constitutional Court; the provisions of the Fundamental Law or of an international treaty that are violated.

The petition shall also contain a reasoning that specifies why the contested law, the provision thereof, the judicial decision or the resolution of the Parliament is contrary to the specified provision of the Fundamental Law or the international treaty, and as well as an explicit request for the annulment of the law, the provision thereof or the judicial decision, and for the content of the Constitutional Court’s decision.

The examination conducted by the Constitutional Court shall be exclusively limited to the specified constitutional request. This provision does not affect the competence of the Constitutional Court with regard to declarations that may be performed ex officio.

The petitioner may repeatedly submit a petition with the same content only if the underlying grounds of the previous petition have changed significantly.

With the exception of constitutional complaints, petitions submitted to the Constitutional Court shall not be withdrawn.

4. Formal criteria of the petition

The petition has to be submitted in written form and filed with the Constitutional Court, or in case of constitutional complaint, at the court of first instance.

No procedure shall be started upon petitions submitted by e-mail.

The petition has to include the name and address or seat of the petitioner, and – if the petitioner is a public law official – his or her office.

In constitutional complaint proceedings, the petitioner shall make a declaration on processing his or her personal data.

The petition shall be signed.

The petitioner shall certify the existence of the preconditions of the proceedings.

5. Charges and fines

The proceedings of the Constitutional Court are free of charge.

Petitioners have to bear their own costs incurred in the course of the Constitutional Court proceedings.

The panel of the Constitutional Court or the single judge may impose a procedural fine on the petitioner and it may order him or her to pay the extra costs if the petitioner exercises the right to petition in an abusive manner; similar measures may be taken against those petitioners or other persons participating in the proceedings whose willful conduct delays or hinders the completion of the Constitutional Court proceedings. The amount of the procedural fine may range between HUF 20,000 and HUF 500,000; the person on whom the fine is imposed shall pay the fine until the date specified in the ruling of the Constitutional Court. When determining the amount of the procedural fine, the gravity and the consequences of the act that resulted in imposing the fine shall be taken into consideration.