CASE OF TÓTH v. HUNGARY
(Application no. 14099/12)
26 May 2015
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Tóth v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Helen Keller, President,
Robert Spano, judges,
and Abel Campos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 21 April 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 14099/12) against Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Hungarian national, Mr Péter Tóth (“the applicant”), on 29 February 2012.
2. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr Z. Tallódi, Agent, Ministry of Justice.
3. On 12 June 2012 the application was communicated to the Government.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The applicant was born in 1952 and lives in Budapest.
5. The applicant’s employment was terminated unlawfully according to the judgment of the Budapest Labour Court dated 24 August 2004.
6. Relying on this decision, on 19 October 2004 the applicant lodged a claim for unpaid wages and other claims against his former employer.
7. The Pest County Labour Court rejected the claim on 5 May 2006.
8. On appeal, the second-instance court quashed the judgment and transferred the case to the competent Budapest Regional Court on 24 January 2007.
9. In the resumed proceedings, the Regional Court dismissed the applicant’s claim on 28 November 2008.
10. On appeal, the Budapest Court of Appeal upheld in essence the first-instance decision on 14 September 2010.
11. The applicant lodged a petition for review. On 11 July 2011 the Supreme Court reversed the previous decision and awarded the applicant 2,053,440 Hungarian forints in salary arrears.
ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
12. The applicant complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
13. The Government contested that argument.
14. The period to be taken into consideration began on 19 October 2004 and terminated on 11 July 2011. It has thus lasted over six years and eight months for three levels of jurisdiction.
In view of such lengthy proceedings, this complaint must be declared admissible.
15. The Court reiterates that the reasonableness of the length of proceedings must be assessed in the light of the circumstances of the case and with reference to the following criteria: the complexity of the case, the conduct of the applicant and the relevant authorities and what was at stake for the applicant in the dispute (see, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII). The Court reiterates that special diligence is necessary in employment disputes (see Ruotolo v. Italy, § 17, 27 February 1992, Series A no. 230-D).
16. The Court has frequently found violations of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention in cases raising issues similar to the one in the present application (see Frydlender, cited above).
17. Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any fact or convincing argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present circumstances. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that the length of the proceedings was excessive and failed to meet the “reasonable time” requirement.
There has accordingly been a breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
18. Relying on Article 41, the applicant claimed approximately 2,053,440 Hungarian forints (HUF) (approximately 6,000 euros (EUR)) in respect of pecuniary damage and HUF 8,000,000 (EUR 25,000) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.
19. The Government contested these claims.
20. The Court does not discern any causal link between the violation found and the pecuniary damage alleged; it therefore rejects this claim. On the other hand, it considers that the applicant must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage. Ruling on the basis of equity, it awards him EUR 1,800 under that head.
21. The applicant made no costs claim.
22. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest rate should be based on the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank, to which should be added three percentage points.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention;
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months, EUR 1,800 (one thousand eight hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
4. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 26 May 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Abel Campos Helen
Deputy Registrar President