Capital punishment is unconstitutional when assessed against a comparative reading of Articles 8.2 and 54.1 of the Constitution. The relevant provisions of the Criminal Code and other related legal rules which permitted capital punishment as a criminal sanction conflicted with the prohibition against any limitation on the essential content of the right to life and to human dignity. From an examination of the Constitution, human life and human dignity form an inseparable unit, having a greater value than other rights; and thus being an indivisible, absolute fundamental right limiting the punitive powers of the State. It is the inherent, inviolable and inalienable fundamental right of every person in Hungary irrespective of citizenship, which the State had a primary responsibility to respect and protect.

Article 8.2 of the Constitution does not permit any limitation upon the essential content of fundamental rights even by way of legislative enactment. Since the right to life and human dignity are itself the «essential content», the State cannot derogate from it. Consequently any deprivation of it is conceptually arbitrary. The State would come into conflict with the whole concept of fundamental constitutional rights if it were to authorise deprivation of the right by permitting and regulating capital punishment. Therefore Article 54.1 of the Constitution cannot be construed as allowing capital punishment even if imposed on the basis of legal proceedings, i.e. non-arbitrarily, since the possibility of any kind of limitation on any basis of the right to life and human dignity is theoretically excluded. Since capital punishment results not merely in a limitation upon that right but in fact the complete and irreversible elimination of life and dignity together with the guarantee thereof, all relevant provisions providing for capital punishment were therefore declared null and void.

Moreover, it follows from the fact that as the sanctions provided for in the Criminal Code constituted a coherent system, the abolition of capital punishment – which previously formed a component of that system – would necessarily result in a complete revision of the entire system. Such a revision, however, is beyond the jurisdiction of the Court.

According to Article 70/A.1 of the Constitution and in the absence of constitutional reasons, if the property of certain people were to be reprivatised while that of others was not – depending on the type of property – this would amount to discrimination in relation to the acquisition of property. In examining the Government’s privatisation programme, it was necessary to clarify the conceptual uncertainty concerning the relationship between privatisation, reprivatisation and compensation. Privatisation involved the assignment of state property into private ownership while reprivatisation was the return of assets formerly owned by private persons but currently in the possession of the State. The term “compensation” was, however, used in a special sense by the Government: the sole legal basis for the partial compensation was fairness, the State was not obliged to pay such compensation and no former owner had the right to receive it since it depended solely on a sovereign state decision.

It was then necessary to consider two types of discrimination, first between the former owners and non-owners and then between the former owners according to the type of property. The constitutionality of the discrimination between former and non-owners depended on whether the interests of these two groups had been weighed with the same degree of prudence and impartiality. If it were the case that, with the preferential treatment of former owners, the distribution of state property would produce a more favourable overall social result as regards the constitutionally-mandated “market economy” than equal treatment would, then this would be permissible. In this type of situation, it was necessary to ascertain whether the right of former owners of land had had their interests considered as thoroughly and impartially as those of all other former owners in order to reveal the objective basis of the discrimination between former owners. Further, it had to be proved that former non-landowners had to be put into a disadvantageous position in order to achieve equality of persons as completely as possible in the future market economy. On its interpretation of Article 70/A of the Constitution, the discrimination in the Act under consideration would accordingly be unconstitutional.

The taking of property from co-operatives, even by virtue of law, without immediate, unconditional and full compensation violated Articles 12.1 and 13 of the Constitution. The recognition by the State under Article 12.1 of the Constitution that co-operatives were autonomous included the recognition that they had the right to property although the Constitution did not expressly provide for co-operative property. Article 9.1 of the Constitution provided a prohibition of discrimination (“the equal protection clause”) against any forms of ownership and further, under Article 13 of the Constitution, constitutional protection was also extended, inter alia, to the unnamed property of business associations. As co-operatives and agricultural co-operatives were a form of business association, irrespective of the fact that they were not regulated by the Act on Business Associations, the property of agricultural co-operatives (including arable land) enjoyed constitutional protection similar to that of the property of business associations. Consequently Articles 12.1 and 13.1 of the Constitution read together guaranteed the right to property including the right of agricultural co-operatives to the arable land they owned. Since property could be taken by a single official decree or by virtue of law only with immediate, unconditional and full compensation, the Government’s proposal was therefore unconstitutional.

Article 15.2 of the Labour Code was unconstitutional as it could potentially infringe an employee’s right to self-determination which formed an integral part of the right to human dignity in Article 54.1 of the Constitution. It was not inconceivable that the trade union might choose to exercise its right of representation in spite of an employee’s explicit request to the contrary. Such potential infringement of the employee’s right to self-determination could not be alleviated by taking into account the employee’s interest which could only be assumed by the union. Indeed the risk of infringing the employee’s interests was at its greatest where the personal matters of non-member employees were concerned. Once the disputed provision had been annulled, the Labour Code would then retain consent as the sole basis for representation.The right to human dignity ensured by Article 54.1 of the Constitution was a natural right of which no one could be deprived. Such a right included, inter alia, the right to free personal development, to self-determination, to privacy or general freedom of action. It was an “umbrella right”, a subsidiary fundamental right which might be relied upon to protect an individual’s autonomy when no particular, specified fundamental right was applicable.