a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 25-06-1996 / e) 22/1996 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 51/1996 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
Constitutional Justice - Types of claim - Claim by a public body - Legislative bodies.
Constitutional Justice - Jurisdiction - Type of review - Preliminary / ex post facto review.
Institutions - Legislative bodies - Organisation - Committees.
Fundamental Rights - Equality.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to dignity.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to life.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to compensation for damage caused by the State.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Human dignity / Compensation for past injustices.
It is unconstitutional if the amount of compensation for those deprived of their life is substantially unequal for different groups of people. In respect of compensation for similar grievances - in the present case for the loss of life - equal standards should apply. However, slight differences due to the historical shaping of the regulation can be accepted.
The Constitutional Court adjudicated upon the constitutionality of Act 32 of 1992 regulating the question of compensation for those wrongfully deprived of their life and liberty due to political reasons in its decision no. 1/1995. In that ruling, among other matters the Court had obliged the legislature to add further provisions to the compensation law, mainly on the grounds that the previous law restricted the possibility of compensation to those whose rights were arbitrarily violated in connection with a formal criminal procedure. In addition, the legislature had been obliged to replace some other unconstitutional provisions in the law.
The legislature finalised the text of the bill amending the compensation law, and before the final vote the Human Rights Standing Committee submitted it to the Constitutional Court for preliminary review.
The Court, in an earlier decision (no. 16/1991), had defined the prerequisites of a preliminary review. The preliminary review of any contestable provision of a bill can be initiated by Parliament, by any one of its standing committees, or by fifty Members of Parliament. The Court in 1991 declared that adjudicating upon the constitutionality of provisions in a pending bill, the text of which is not definitive, would mean the possibility of involving the Constitutional Court in the every-day legislative process, which would be incompatible with the principle of separation of powers.
In the present case, the legislature finalised the text of the bill and excluded the possibility of any further changes. Thus the Court accepted the demand for the preliminary review.
As to the merits of the case, the Court acknowledged that the legislature redressed its former mistake by creating a new group of persons entitled to compensation, specifically those persons deported either to Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, because deportation, as explained already in decision no. 1/1995, is not merely a form of deprivation of liberty.
The Court, however, found it to be unconstitutional for the bill to establish substantially different standards for similar grievances, namely for the loss of life. Loss of life is so serious a grievance that it «absorbs» all previous injustices. It would be arbitrary and at the same time would violate human dignity to differentiate among the diverse ways of losing life.
The Constitutional Court added that if as a result of this change the legislature had to enlarge the range of persons entitled to compensation (because of the above constitutional requirements), it would not be unconstitutional to redistribute the overall budget allowed for such compensation, thus reducing the amount of the original compensation for each individual.
A previous decision on the constitutionality of the same Act was decision 1/1995 of 08.02.1995, Bulletin 1995/1 [HUN-1995-1-001].