The Constitutional Court established that Section 77 para. (2) of Act LXXXIII of 1997 on the Benefits of Compulsory Social Security was unconstitutional and, therefore, annulled it. Section 77 para. (2) of Act LXXXIII of 1997 on the Benefits of Compulsory Social Security shall not be applicable in the cases No. 11.K.27.109/2018 before the Szombathely Administrative and Labour Court and No. 2.K.27.519/2018 before the Debrecen Administrative and Labour Court as well as in any other case pending. In the case underlying the judicial initiative the plaintiff had submitted to the Price Subsidy Department of the National Health Insurance Fund an application for support based on equity concerning the price of a medicine not available under social security support, and the plaintiff’s application was rejected. The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant by arguing that it was the only chance for him to stay alive. The judge initiating the judicial initiative referred, among others, to the following: the right to legal remedy would require that a possibility to turn to another organ or to a higher forum of the same organ should be offered for the purpose of reviewing all decisions that substantially influence the right or the lawful interest of the affected person. As argued by the petitioning judge, the challenged provision of the law “provided a rather narrow” scope of right to appeal, indeed, in the case of persons who do not have the financial means to buy the medicine – unavailable under social security support –indispensable for their treatment. The Constitutional Court found the judicial initiative to be well-founded. The peculiar character of the administrative decisions based on exercising equity may justify in such cases a regulation that excludes the possibility of the judicial review of the administrative decision, however, it should not necessary mean the exclusion of the possibility of a substantial review. In the present case, a formalized legal remedy cannot be justified with this peculiar character due to the real risk of breaches of the law, taking into account in particular the exhaustive listing of the conditions of receiving support to the price of medicine based on equity, and also taking into account the need for the complex examination of eventually complicated questions of medical and economic nature. On the basis of the foregoing, the Constitutional Court established that the challenged regulation unnecessarily restricted the right to legal remedy and the right to a fair procedure at court.
The concrete case at the Constitutional Court was based on a constitutional complaint. The petitioner had a nasal septum operation in anaesthesia and after waking up he developed symptoms of aphasia (speech disorder) and limb paralysis on the right side of his body. The National Rehabilitation and Social Expert Institute established that the petitioner had a health damage of 80 percent due to cerebral haemorrhage, hypertonia, one-side paralysis and obesity, and it classified the petitioner into disablement category II. The petitioner brought an action against the medical institution where the operation had been made, requesting the payment of damages by the medical institution due to the failure of the clinics to perform expectable diligence. As a secondary claim for the case of the court establishing that the defendant clinics did indeed perform due diligence, the petitioner requested to establish that his right to proper information had been violated. As on the basis of the primary claim, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court had established the clinic’s liability for damages and the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal approved this judgement, neither of the fora had to decide about the secondary claim. Upon the defendant’s application for review, the Curia annulled the final judgement, changed the judgement of first instance and rejected the claim.
In the constitutional complaint the petitioner alleged, among others, the violation of the right to fair court procedure. According to the petitioner, the Curia rejected his claim without examining the merits of the secondary claim. The Constitutional Court underlined in its decision: the right to turn to court as a part of the right to a fair court proceedings means more than a simple right to start court proceedings – it also implies the right to have the legal debate adjudicated by the court on the merits of the case. The obligation to have the claim exhausted raises a requirement concerning the judicial decision that the courts should decide about all elements of the claim and the counterclaim in the holdings of the judgement as the result of the examination on the merits. The Curia rejected the petitioner’s claim with final force, but one of the elements of his claim has not been examined on the merits by any of the judicial fora. The Curia laid down in its judgement, in accordance with the rules of the old Act on civil proceedings in force at the time of the procedure, that it had no possibility in the review procedure to examine the merits of a secondary claim formulated as a contingency. However, the Curia undoubtedly had the possibility to deliver a judgement in the review procedure that allows the lower courts to examine the merits of the secondary claim. Indeed, it follows from the right to turn to court, as a partial entitlement of the right to fair trial, that when the Curia changes the final judgement and rejects the claim in the framework of the review procedure, this decision should not result in a situation – notwithstanding an apparent accumulation of claims – where one of the elements of the contingent claims is not examined on the merits by any of the judicial fora.
Accordingly the Constitutional Court established that the judicial decision challenged by the constitutional complaint was contrary to the Fundamental Law, therefore the Court annulled it. Judge László Salamon attached a concurring opinion to the decision.
The Unified Patent Court is a supranational judicial forum that shall act in the legal disputes relating to the infringement and validity of European patents. The relevant agreement has been signed by 25 Member States of the European Union, including Hungary.
The Government’s motion raises two abstract questions of constitutional law. The first question was whether the Constitutional Court handles the so-called enhanced cooperations similar to the present agreement as part of the EU-law, or treats them as agreements concluded on the basis of international law. In the framework of this review, the Constitutional Court recalled: as established in the Decision No. 22/2016. (XII. 5.) AB, by joining the European Union, Hungary has not given up its sovereignty but it only allowed for the joint exercising of certain powers, accordingly, the maintaining of Hungary’s sovereignty should be presumed in the course of assessing the joint exercising of powers additional to the rights and obligations specified in the founding treaties of the European Union (the so-called presumption of maintained sovereignty).
According to the Constitutional Court, the form of enhanced cooperation should enjoy special consideration under public law. Hungary is free to conclude an international treaty the only states parties of which are Member States of the European Union and which creates an institution that applies the law of the European Union, however, all this shall only become part of the EU-law if its legal basis can be found in the founding treaties. This should be examined by the Government in the case of the concrete cooperation. If in the present case the Government holds that the founding treaties of the European Union have already specified the power related to establishing the institution concerned, the legal basis of the publication of the implementing international treaty shall be Article E of the Fundamental Law, while in other cases the legal basis shall be Article Q of the Fundamental Law.
The other question to be answered concerned the conditions of validity necessary for the publication in case of an agreement under international law. In addressing this, the Constitutional Court first considered that the Unified Patent Court to be set up shall apply in its procedure not only the EU-law but also the national laws of the Member States. The Constitutional Court also recalled that the international agreements establishing judicial fora typically set up a forum with a special function of legal remedy. However, it is a peculiar feature of the international special court set up for specific case-groups that not only the appeal procedure but also the basic case shall be dealt with by the special court. Therefore the operation of such an international forum supplementing the national court structure would result in drawing the relevant legal disputes between private parties off the jurisdiction of the national courts, which would necessarily affect the Fundamental Law’s chapter dealing with the courts in Hungary. The Fundamental Law prescribes, by allowing no exceptions, that the national courts shall decide in all legal disputes of private law. The Constitutional Court concluded from the above that, according to the provisions of the Fundamental Law in force, the international agreement transferring to an international institution the jurisdiction of adjudicating a group of private law disputes may not be published.
The defendant of the case behind the constitutional complaint was the publisher of a national daily newspaper. An article with the title “Investigation under way against bishop” – the person concretely identified by name – “due to coercion” was published in the paper. The diocesan mentioned in the title had been the plaintiff of first order and subsequently he became one of the petitioners of the constitutional complaint. Further in the article the newspaper presented the following: the prosecutor’s office ordered investigation due to the suspicion of the criminal offence of coercion, “related to the acts” of the diocesan and the commissary.
To protect their rights, the plaintiffs turned to the court. In their opinion, the newspaper falsely stated that an investigation had been started against them due to any criminal offence, as in fact they have not been suspected and the investigation took place against an unknown perpetrator. The title of the article was about an investigation against one of them, despite of the fact that they have not been incriminated. After court proceedings of multiple stages, the plaintiffs finally turned to the Constitutional Court with a constitutional complaint. According to the petitioners, the Curia acted contrary to the Fundamental Law when it held permissible for the title of a press article to contain a falsehood.
As underlined by the Constitutional Court: if the whole of the press article provides true information, then the smaller inaccuracies, falsehoods found in certain sentences or terms of the article do not form ground for legal accountability. However, the Constitutional Court holds at the same time that the criteria concerned should be considered differently when they are applied with regard to the title of an article. In the course of the assessment focusing on personality rights, the title of a press article does not form unity with other parts of the article.
Accordingly, the interpretation of the law provided by the Curia does not comply with the criteria of constitutionality in its part stating that the falsehood contained in the title of the article should be assessed in the light of the totality of the article. Therefore the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged judicial decision. There shall be a repeated procedure in the case, as it is still the duty of the court in charge to decide about the lawfulness of the concrete article concerned in the case.
Judges Dr. Attila Horváth, Dr. Béla Pokol, Dr. Mária Szívós and Dr. András Varga Zs. attached concurring opinions to the decision.
Lack of provision for a name-changing process for lawfully settled non-Hungarian citizens violated the right to human dignity and the prohibition of discrimination.