22 May 2017
Brief history of the Constitutional Court of Hungary
In January 1989, the Parliament 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 implemented Art. 32/A. into the Constitution in October 1989, regulating 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 entered into force on 30 October. On 23 November 1989 the Parliament elected the first five judges of the Court, which could commence its operation on 1 January 1990. Five additional members were elected by the new, freely elected Parliament in mid-1990.
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 legal provisions. Most of the petitions aimed at posterior constitutional review, and were submitted by individuals. The Court performed also ex ante reviews which had outstanding political and constitutional importance, 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). Another important competences were the examination of legislative omissions, the interpretation of the Constitution, and performing 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, just as the theory of the “invisible Constitution” and it adopted also the concept of “living law”.
In January 2000, the Court held a scientific conference in occasion of 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 operation (you can read more about the conference in this link).
In 2010, some rules regarding the Court were modified (the rules of nomination of Judges were modified and the competence of the Constitutional Court was restricted in State budgetary issues, regulations on central taxes and contributions).
In 2011, the number of the judges has changed and since September 2011 the Court has 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 n. CLI of 2011) have 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 Act n. CLI of 2011 (hereinafter: ACC).
The Structure of the Court
The Constitutional Court is the principal organ for the protection of the Fundamental Law. Its tasks are to protect the democratic State governed by the rule of law, the constitutional order and the rights guaranteed by the Fundamental Law; to safeguard the inner coherence of the legal system and to foster the principle of the division of powers.
The basic rules concerning the function of the Court are set in the Fundamental Law and the main regulations on the structure and procedure are determined by the ACC. The detailed regulations are set by the Constitutional Court in the Rules of Procedure. The Court itself regulated the detailed provisions on the rules of procedure in a plenary decision [1/2012 (I.3.)].
The fifteen members of the Court are elected by the Parliament with qualified majority (the vote of two-thirds of all representatives) for a term of twelve years. The President of the Court is elected by Parliament. The judges elect the vice president among themselves. The president’s activity of coordination and representation does not affect the independence of the judges.
The Court adopts its decisions in plenary session, in five-member-panels or as a single judge. According to the Rules of procedure of the Court it is possible to create three-member panels as well. The plenary session decides on the constitutionality of statutes and in all other cases if the ACC regulates so.
The Office of the Constitutional Court helps the Court in performing its functions. It is in charge of managing the Constitutional Court’s administrative tasks, it handles organisational-operational tasks, case administration and tasks related to the preparation of decisions.