Decision 19/2019 on the violation of the rules on staying habitually on public ground
18 June 2019
Decision number: Decision 19/2019. (VI. 18.)
Subject of the case:
Judicial initiative aimed at establishing the lack of conformity with the Fundamental Law and annulling Section 178/B (1) of the Act II of 2012 on Offences, the Procedure in Relation to Offences and the Offence Record System (violation of the rules on staying habitually on public ground)
The regulation in the Act on Offences regarding the prohibition of staying habitually on public ground is not contrary to the Fundamental Law. The Constitutional Court rejected the judicial initiatives challenging the provisions of the Act on Offences prohibiting staying habitually on public ground. The Constitutional Court stated as a constitutional requirement that the challenged sanction under the law applicable to minor offences shall only be applicable, if the placement of the homeless person was verifiably granted at the time of committing the conduct.
The petitioning judges held the challenged provisions to be contrary to the principle of the rule of law as well as the right to human dignity. They referred to a decision of the Constitutional Court adopted in 2012 – annulling a statutory definition of a minor offence of essentially similar content – as well as to the text of the Fundamental Law amended meanwhile, which does not justify the criminalisation of staying habitually on public ground.
In the decision published today by the Constitutional Court, with due account to the amended regulation of the Fundamental Law – prohibiting for everyone in general staying habitually on public ground – it took a stand on the inapplicability of the 2012 decision of the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court shall follow the text in force of the Fundamental Law and it is not empowered to review the content of the Fundamental Law or the amendments of the Fundamental Law. In the course of exercising his or her constitutional rights, the individual is responsible not only for himself or herself, but also for the other members of the community; the exercising of rights should be in balance with his or her responsibility for the community.
Violating a prohibition laid down in the Fundamental Law, i.e. an unlawful conduct shall not be protected by the Fundamental Law. According to the decision, the challenged regulation complies with the constitutional requirement applicable to the law on minor offences, and also enforces its guarantees. The regulation shall impose a sanction against anyone who resists to dispense with staying habitually on public ground despite of the relevant prohibition laid down in the Fundamental Law and despite of receiving multiple explicit warnings. Therefore, the relevant statutory definition of the offence does not sanction a state (being homeless), but it shall impose a legal consequence on violating the obligation of cooperation.
The Constitutional Court pointed out that in the respective case the examination focused on the right of self-determination and the autonomy of action, as the restrictable part of the former, rather than the untouchable “core dignity” of human dignity. This, however, may not result in the violation of a certain prohibition under the Fundamental Law, or the committing of a minor offence. In line with the values of the Fundamental Law, no one shall have the right to be destitute or homeless; this state is not part of the right to human dignity.
To the contrary, if the State left the individual alone without caring for him or her, it would cause an injury, since the right to human dignity is seriously violated by the marginalisation of the individual from the human society. The Constitutional Court underlined that the petitioning judges failed to verify that those who use the services of the welfare system are treated as objects and that they are dehumanized. Neither is it verified that in case of using the services of the welfare system, the affected persons are placed among circumstances without human dignity. If indeed such a situation would still occur, the protection of fundamental rights shall be granted for the party whose right has been violated.
Furthermore, the State’s obligation of protecting institutions shall result from the Fundamental Law. The State can fulfil this obligation by providing for introducing the affected persons into the welfare system. In the absence of cooperation by the individual, the sanction under the law applicable for minor offences shall be the ultimate tool available for the State. At the same time, the Constitutional Court stated as a constitutional requirement that the challenged sanction under the law applicable to minor offences shall only be applicable, if the placement of the homeless person was verifiably granted at the time of committing the conduct. In addition, the authorities applying the law should take into account the constitutional obligation aimed at protecting the vulnerable, as well as the fact that the protection of the rights of the affected persons can only be granted by way of introducing them into the welfare system. Justice Béla Pokol attached a concurring reasoning and Justices Ágnes Czine, Imre Juhász, Ildikó Hörcherné Marosi, Balázs Schanda, István Stumpf and Péter Szalay attached dissenting opinions to the decision.