a) Hungary / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 29-03-2002 / e) 15/2002 / f) / g) Magyar Közlöny (Official Gazette), 2002/41 / h) .
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
General Principles - General interest.
Institutions - Public finances - Auditing bodies.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Procedural safeguards, rights of the defence and fair trial - Right of access to the file.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Procedural safeguards, rights of the defence and fair trial - Equality of arms.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to private life - Protection of personal data.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Bank secret, guarantees / Institution, financial, decision, judicial review.
That provision of the Act on Financial Institutions which precludes a party to a case (generally the claimant) and his solicitor from obtaining access to the case files if those contain bank secrets violates the principle of equality of arms and through this the right to a fair trial.
A judge of Budapest City Court initiated proceedings before the Constitutional Court in a pending case on the basis that the judge considered one of the provisions of the Act CXII of 1996 on Financial Institutions to be unconstitutional. The petition asserted the challenged provision of the Act was contrary to Article 57.1 of the Constitution, the right to a fair trial, because in judicial review cases when the court examines the decision by the Supervising Authority of Financial Institutions, the court may exclusively disclose the documents comprising bank secrets, submitted by the Supervisory Authority and required for supporting the decision. The court shall handle these files as confidential files, and it is not allowed to distribute any copies thereof.
According to the petitioner, this provision precludes one of the parties from obtaining access to the case files submitted by the defendant if it contains bank secrets. Therefore, the defendant does not have the opportunity to make copies of the files and to have detailed information of the case.
As the Constitutional Court held in its previous decision, everyone charged with a criminal offence has the minimum right to have facilities for the preparation of his defence. This includes the right of access to the case file, and also the right to possess the file (Bulletin 1998/1 [HUN-1998-1-003]).
In the instant case, the Court found that the parties involved in a trial, be it criminal or civil, have the right to a fair trial, and this right requires even in civil and administrative cases compliance with the principle of equality of arms. The Act on Financial Institutions, by restricting the parties' right of access to the case files and possessing of those files, violates an important procedural safeguard: the equality of arms. There is a public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the relationship between the bank and the customer and keeping the bank secrets, but it should be emphasised that those who possess banks secrets are obliged to observe secrecy under penal sanctions. The Constitutional Court held this a sufficient guarantee of keeping bank secrets in civil proceedings.
Decision 6/1998 of 11.03.1998, Bulletin 1998/1 [HUN-1998-1-003].