CASE OF KRASNODĘBSKA-KAZIKOWSKA AND ŁUNIEWSKA v. POLAND
(Application no. 26860/11)
6 October 2015
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Krasnodębska-Kazikowska and Łuniewska v. Poland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Faris Vehabović, judges,
and Fatoş Aracı, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 1 September 2015,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 26860/11) against the Republic of Poland lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by two Polish nationals, Ms Maria Krasnodębska Kazikowska and Ms Hanna Łuniewska (“the applicants”), on 21 April 2011.
2. The applicants were represented by Ms E. Słotwińska, a lawyer practising in Warsaw. The Polish Government (“the Government”) were represented by their Agent, Ms J. Chrzanowska of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
3. The applicants alleged that as a result of discrepancies in the case-law of the domestic courts they had been denied compensation for damage arising from an expropriation which had been declared null and void.
4. On 24 September 2012 the application was communicated to the Government.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
5. The applicants were born in 1942 and 1943 respectively and live in Warsaw.
6. The applicants are legal successors of the former owners of a property in the vicinity of Warsaw, called Willa Janówka, composed of a number of plots owned by several individuals.
7. In 1971 the then owners of the property, including E.P., the applicants’ mother, were obliged by an administrative decision to transfer their land to the State Treasury without compensation within the framework of a larger expropriation scheme.
A. The applicants’ efforts to obtain compensation for damage caused by the expropriation decision
8. On 30 December 2005 the Local Self-Government Board of Appeal (Samorządowe Kolegium Odwoławcze w Warszawie) gave a decision concerning the applicants and three other persons, legal successors of the other former owners expropriated by the 1971 decision. It declared that that decision had been issued in flagrant breach of the law in force at the material time. The parties were further informed that the corrective decision gave rise to a compensation claim on their part for damage caused by the original unlawful decision.
9. On 28 August 2006 the applicants sought compensation for damage caused by the decision given in 1971.
10. On 15 May 2009 the Warsaw Regional Court allowed the applicants’ claim and awarded 64,487 Polish zlotys (PLN) to each of them, corresponding to the value of the expropriated land. It held that the conditions determining civil liability in tort, namely a tortious event which caused damage and the establishment of a causal link between the event and the damage, were met in the case. In respect of tort committed by the State Treasury and caused by unlawful administrative decisions compensation could be sought only after a subsequent decision declared that the original administrative decision was unlawful. Such a corrective decision (decyzja nadzorcza) had been given in the applicants’ case in 2005 (see paragraph 8 above).
11. The court went on to state that it was necessary to determine which provisions of substantive law were applicable to the circumstances of the case. The choice of substantive provisions determined, in turn, the beginning and the length of the time-limit within which the compensation claim had to be brought before the courts. The court noted that the original administrative decision had been given before 1 September 2004. On that date the Law of 17 June 2004 amending the Civil Code had entered into force. This law had fundamentally changed the legal framework concerning civil liability of the State Treasury. It abrogated, inter alia, Article 160 of the Code of Administrative Procedure and enacted Article 417 1 of the Civil Code (see paragraphs 22-24 below). The court was of the view that it was the latter provision which should be applied to the circumstances of the case. Under this provision, read together with the provisions of the Civil Code on liability in tort, the prescription period started to run only when the decision of 30 December 2005, confirming the unlawfulness of the original expropriation decision, became final. The prescription period of three years had not therefore expired.
12. The defendant State Treasury, represented by the mayor of Warsaw, appealed.
13. On 26 November 2009 the Warsaw Court of Appeal examined the appeal and dismissed the applicants’ claim. It endorsed the findings of fact made by the lower court as to the existence of pecuniary damage and the causal link between the 1971 decision and that damage. However, it was of the view that the provisions concerning the State’s civil liability in tort should have been interpreted differently by the first-instance court, in particular as to the determination of the prescription period. The court observed that under the communist regime it was practically impossible, essentially for political reasons, to vindicate claims originating in unlawful administrative decisions or to seek compensation from the State Treasury for damage in tort caused by such decisions. The earliest date on which it was possible to do so was 4 June 1989, when the first partially free parliamentary elections were held in Poland. It was from that date that the prescription period of ten years provided for by Article 442 of the Civil Code started to run. The applicants should have availed themselves of the available remedy, namely they should have obtained a decision declaring the original expropriation decision unlawful prior to 4 June 1999 when the ten-year prescription period came to an end.
14. The applicants appealed on points of law. They argued that the contested judgment was in breach of Article 77 of the 1997 Constitution in so far as it guaranteed the right to compensation for damage caused by the State. Neither the damage caused by the 1971 decision nor its unlawfulness were in dispute between the parties.
They further submitted that the case raised a significant legal issue in so far as there were divergent strands of case-law regarding the interpretation of legal provisions governing the State’s civil liability for administrative decisions made prior to 1 September 2004 and declared unlawful after that date. These differences in the judicial approach to similar cases, both as to the determination of the beginning of the prescription period and as to its length, had a decisive influence on the outcome of compensation cases brought by victims of unlawful administrative decisions and on the applicants’ case.
15. On 21 October 2010 the Supreme Court, sitting in camera as a single judge, refused to hear the applicants’ appeal on points of law, holding that it did not raise any significant legal issue.
B. The efforts of other persons affected by the original expropriation decision to obtain compensation
16. Parallel to the applicants’ case, A.C., a successor of another owner expropriated by the same expropriation decision given in 1971 and covered by the same corrective decision of 30 December 2005 (see paragraph 8 above), sought compensation in civil proceedings for damage caused by the original decision. She lodged her claim with the Warsaw Regional Court on 30 August 2006.
17. By a judgment of 30 September 2010 the Warsaw Regional Court allowed her claim and awarded her compensation in the amount of PLN 110,187, corresponding to the value of the plot of land owned by A.C.’s legal predecessor. It recounted briefly the divergent views expressed by the civil courts, including the Supreme Court, in cases concerning claims for pecuniary damage caused by administrative decisions declared unlawful after 1 September 2004. It noted that the manner in which the provisions concerning the State’s liability in tort for unlawful administrative decisions were interpreted had given rise to serious difficulties and differences of opinion in judicial practice. It disagreed with the view expressed in certain judicial decisions that the ten-year prescription period for bringing compensation claims before the courts had started to run when the unlawful decision had been given, but its running was subsequently stayed until 4 June 1989. The Regional Court was of the view that the three-year prescription period, referred to in the former Article 160 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, was applicable to the circumstances of the case. It further held that this period had started to run when the corrective decision of 30 December 2005 declaring the 1971 decision unlawful had become final.
18. On 5 September 2006 R.W., another legal successor of the original owners, brought a compensation case before the Warsaw Regional Court, claiming compensation from the State Treasury, represented by the mayor of Warsaw, for damage originating in the 1971 decision. He also referred to the corrective decision of 30 December 2005.
19. By a judgment of 10 July 2012 the Warsaw Regional Court allowed his claim and awarded him PLN 82,988, corresponding to the value of the land concerned. The court stressed that it was not in dispute that the original administrative decision had been unlawful. Nor was it in dispute that that decision had caused damage to the claimant. The court referred to the resolution given by the Supreme Court on 31 March 2011 (see paragraph 27 below). It shared the view expressed by the Supreme Court in this resolution that it was not justified to interpret the applicable provisions in a way imposing on the applicant an obligation to seek a declaration of unlawfulness of the original administrative decision within ten years after 4 June 1989.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
Compensation for damage caused by unlawful administrative decisions
20. Under Article 77 § 1of the Constitution of Poland of 1997, everyone is entitled to compensation for damage caused by the unlawful acts of a public authority. Pursuant to § 2 of the same Article, a statute shall not bar access to court to persons seeking redress for any breach of their rights or freedoms.
21. Pursuant to Article 156 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, a final administrative decision is subject to annulment, in particular if it has been issued by an authority which had no jurisdiction, or if it is without a legal basis or contrary to the applicable laws.
“A person who has suffered loss on account of the issuing of a decision in a manner contrary to Article 156 § 1 or on account of the annulment of such a decision shall have a claim for compensation for actual damage, unless he has been responsible for the circumstances mentioned in this provision.”
Following the judgment of the Constitutional Court of 4 December 2001 certain provisions governing the State’s civil liability in tort were amended. Further, as a result of the judgment of that court of 23 September 2003 (K 20/02) the qualification of damage as “actual” was removed with effect from 30 September 2003. On 1 September 2004 amendments to the Civil Code entered into force. Article 160 of the Code was abrogated and the civil liability of the State for damage caused by unlawful administrative decisions is from then on governed by the provisions of the Civil Code on liability in tort.
“The State Treasury, or [as the case may be] a self-government entity or other legal person responsible for exercising public authority, shall be liable for any damage (szkoda) caused by an unlawful act or omission [committed] in connection with the exercise of public authority.”
24. Article 417 1 § 2 of the Code, which entered into force on 1 September 2004 as the Law of 17 June 2004 amending the Code, provides that when damage has been caused by way of an unlawful and final decision, a compensation claim in respect of damage caused by such a decision can be made after the unlawfulness of such decision has been declared in separate administrative proceedings.
25. On 8 January 2010 the President of the Supreme Court requested the Civil Chamber of that court to adopt a resolution by a bench composed of seven judges and to answer a legal question as to the substantive law governing compensation claims in respect of damage caused by administrative decisions issued before 1 September 2004 where the unlawfulness of the decisions was declared by way of an administrative decision given after that date. He noted, inter alia, that two strands had developed in the case-law of the Supreme Court and other courts, against a background of serious difficulties concerning the temporal scope and consequences of the Law of 17 June 2004 as to the applicable substantive law and, consequently, also the applicable prescription periods, their length and start date. These divergences decisively affected the compensation rights arising for individuals who had received unlawful administrative decisions prior to 1 September 2004.
26. On 24 August 2010 the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, sitting as a bench of seven judges, referring to the President’s request, requested the full composition of that Chamber to adopt a resolution clarifying the issues raised by the President’s request (III CZP 4/10). The Chamber noted that the issue had given rise to serious discrepancies in judicial practice, including within that of the Supreme Court itself. Considering the importance of the issues involved and the fact that previous decisions and resolutions of the Supreme Court had failed to bring uniformity into judicial practice, a resolution by the Civil Chamber of the Court sitting as a full bench was called for.
27. On 31 March 2011 the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, sitting as a full bench, adopted a resolution (III CZP 112/10). It acknowledged that the applicable provisions had given rise to serious difficulties and to divergent interpretations in judicial practice. The Supreme Court held that former Article 160 of the Code of Administrative Procedure was applicable. The three-year time-limit within which to claim compensation for damage caused by an unlawful administrative decision given prior to 1 September 2004 started to run from the date of the correcting decision.
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 1 OF PROTOCOL No. 1 TO THE CONVENTION
28. The applicants complained that as a result of discrepancies in the case-law of the domestic courts they had been denied compensation for the damage arising from the unlawful expropriation. They relied on Article 1 of the Convention, which reads as follows:
“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.
The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”
29. The Government did not submit any observations as to the admissibility of the present applications. However, the Court must first determine whether Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention was applicable to the circumstances of the case.
30. Where the proprietary interest is in the nature of a claim it may be regarded as an “asset” only where it has a sufficient basis in national law, for example where there is settled case-law of the domestic courts confirming it (see Kopecký v. Slovakia [GC], no. 44912/98, §§ 52, ECHR 2004-IX; Draon v. France [GC], no. 1513/03, § 68, 6 October 2005; and Anheuser-Busch Inc. v. Portugal [GC], no. 73049/01, § 65, 11 January 2007).
31. The Court found in cases concerning practical implementation of restitution schemes introduced under that restitution legislation, that administrative decisions recognising the applicants’ entitlement to compensation for expropriations in the past was sufficient to give rise to a “proprietary interest” protected by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see, among other authorities, Viaşu v. Romania, §§ 59-60, and Maria Atanasiu and Others v. Romania, nos. 30767/05 and 33800/06, § 180, 12 October 2010). In particular, it has acknowledged in cases against Poland that an entitlement to seek pecuniary compensation was a proprietary interest attracting the protection of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, see Plechanow v. Poland, §§ 84-86, 7 July 2009, and Sierpiński v. Poland, no. 38016/07, § 66, 3 November 2009).
32. In the present case the 2005 decision the Local Government Board of Appeal established that the 1971 decision had been issued in flagrant breach of law in force at the material time. The parties were informed that this corrective decision gave rise to a compensation claim in respect of damage caused by the original decision (see paragraph 8 above). The Court is therefore satisfied that Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 was applicable to the circumstances of the case.
33. The Court notes that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 (a) of the Convention. It further notes that it is not inadmissible on any other grounds. It must therefore be declared admissible.
1. The parties’ submissions
34. The applicants submitted that they were the only successors of the former owners of the property expropriated by the unlawful decision of 1971 who had not received compensation. The fact that damage arising from the same legal and factual background had been treated differently, and to their detriment, was not compliant with Convention standards. The decision of the appellate court dismissing their compensation claim was in breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. The Warsaw Court of Appeal had wrongly applied the law in that it held that the time-limit for bringing their claim before the courts had started to run in June 1989. That court had erred in law when holding that the applicants should have sought compensation by the end of 1999, essentially because Article 160 of the Code of Administrative Procedure had never provided for any time-limit within which individuals affected by unlawful administrative decisions could seek compensation.
35. The Supreme Court, sitting in camera in a single-judge formation, had wrongly refused to hear the applicants’ appeal on points of law, holding that no significant legal issues were involved in the case. That decision was incompatible with Article 77 of the Polish Constitution in so far as it guaranteed the right to compensation for damage caused by the State. The fact that diverging strands of case-law had developed in respect of compensation claims arising from unlawful administrative decisions was in breach of the standards developed by the Court in respect of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. This had created legal uncertainty, which effectively deprived the applicants of any opportunity to have their claim satisfied.
36. The applicants emphasised that it was only in their case that the authorities representing the State Treasury had decided to challenge the first-instance judgment before the appellate court. In compensation cases brought by other legal successors of owners of the same property the first-instance judgments awarding compensation to the plaintiffs were not appealed against. This difference in treatment by the State of cases with the same factual background lent additional support to their view that their case had suffered because of legal uncertainty surrounding the relevant issues.
37. The applicants acknowledged that divergences in the case-law were an inherent consequence of any judicial system based on a network of trial and appeal courts. However, the task of the Supreme Court was precisely to resolve conflicts between decisions of lower courts. In the present case even the Supreme Court had failed to have uniform case-law on questions of substantive law. The case-law of that court itself had been at the origin of the profound and lasting differences in the judicial approach to similar cases. Instead of playing its part and establishing a uniform approach early on, the Supreme Court, by adopting conflicting decisions, had itself been a source of legal uncertainty. This resulted in the applicants being treated differently from other persons in comparable factual and legal situations. The principle of legal certainty and security had thus been breached.
38. The Government submitted that in the present case the applicants’ claim was dismissed by the Warsaw Court of Appeal, whereas in the cases brought by other legal successors of the former owners their claims had been allowed by the Warsaw Regional Court. Hence, the present case did not concern a situation where the same court had interpreted the same provisions of the domestic law differently in similar situations and reached contradictory conclusions.
39. There was no doubt that significant legal issues had arisen after the Act of 17 June 2004 entered into force on 1 September 2004 in respect of the interpretation of provisions governing compensation entitlements for damage caused by administrative decisions given prior to that date and declared unlawful after that date. The divergences in the determination of the legal framework governing civil liability of the State Treasury in such cases had appeared in the case-law of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Administrative Court and the common courts. Two divergent strands of the relevant case-law had developed as to which provisions of substantive law were to be applied - either the former Article 160 of the Code of Administrative Procedure, or Article 417¹ § 2 of the Civil Code enacted by the Act of 17 June 2004. The choice of the substantive provisions was, in turn, decisive for the choice of the applicable procedure and judicial forum, civil or administrative, to which such claims could be brought and, ultimately, also on the determination and length of the time-limit for vindicating such claims.
40. Taking into account the existence of these two major strands in judicial interpretation, in January 2010 the President of the Supreme Court requested the seven-judge bench of that court to rule on that question. On 31 March 2011 the Civil Chamber of that court, sitting as a full bench, adopted a relevant resolution (see paragraph 27 above). That court was of the view that the administrative decision confirming the unlawfulness of the original decision triggered the running of the prescription period.
41. The Government were of the view that the period within which the divergences existed had not lasted long. No more than five years had passed between the first relevant judgments given by the Supreme Court after the Act of 17 June 2004 had entered into force and the Supreme Court’s resolution of 31 March 2011. That resolution had brought uniformity to the interpretation of the provisions concerned. Further, the domestic law had provided an adequate mechanism with a view to avoiding discrepancies in the judicial approach.
42. They concluded that there had been no breach of the applicants’ rights in the present case.
2. The Court’s assessment
43. The Court has repeatedly held that the Convention imposes no specific obligation on States to right injustices or harm caused before they ratified the Convention. However, once such a solution has been adopted by a State, it must be implemented with reasonable clarity and coherence, in order to avoid, as far as possible, legal uncertainty and ambiguity for individuals concerned by the measures to implement it. In that context, it should be stressed that uncertainty, whether it is legislative, administrative or arising from practices applied by the authorities,is an important factor to be taken into account in assessing a State’s conduct (see Broniowski, cited above, § 151; Tunnel Report Limited v. France, no. 27940/07, § 39, 18 November 2010; Zolotas v. Greece (no. 2), no. 66610/09, § 42, ECHR 2013 (extracts); and Bittó and Others v. Slovakia, no. 30255/09, § 55, 28 January 2014).
44. In the assessment of whether the State has complied with its obligation to act in compliance with the principle of legal certainty, inherent in the provisions of the Convention, the Court attaches importance to the quality of the law governing the relevant subject matter. The concept of quality of law covers also the question of its foreseeability. The mere fact that a legal provision is capable of more than one construction does not mean that it fails to meet the requirement of foreseeability for the purposes of the Convention. The role of adjudication vested in the courts is precisely to dissipate such interpretational doubts as remain, taking into account the changes in everyday practice (see Gorzelik and Others v. Poland [GC], no. 44158/98, § 65, 17 February 2004). It is primarily for the national authorities to interpret and apply domestic law. However, the Court is required to verify whether the way in which the domestic law is interpreted and applied produces consequences that are consistent with the principles of the Convention, as interpreted in the light of the Court’s case-law (see, among many other authorities, Scordino v. Italy (no. 1) [GC], no. 36813/97, §§ 190 and 191, ECHR 2006-V).
45. The Court acknowledges that difficult legal issues may arise in connection with legal proceedings pursued in order to remedy infringements of the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions committed in the past by the communist authorities (see Jahn and Others v. Germany [GC], nos. 46720/99, 72203/01, and 72552/01, ECHR 2005-VI, mutatis mutandis). In the present case the applicants were successful in having the expropriation decision declared null and void. It was open to them later to have recourse to judicial proceedings with a view to vindicating their compensation claim. Their case was examined at two levels of jurisdiction. There is no indication that they were prevented from submitting their evidence and developing legal arguments before the courts. Hence, the domestic law provided a framework of a judicial character by which the applicants could seek to have their claim arising from the old expropriation vindicated.
46. It is for the domestic courts to interpret the domestic law in a manner which is compliant with the States’ obligations under the Convention. In the present case the applicants’ compensation claim was unsuccessful. Their case ultimately failed as the Warsaw Court of Appeal overturned the first-instance judgment and dismissed their claim. It held that the provisions concerning the State’s liability in tort should have been interpreted differently by the first-instance court. That court held that the ten-year prescription period for seeking compensation for damage originating in unlawful administrative decisions had started to run from 4 June 1989 onwards, when the first partially free parliamentary elections were held in Poland. The court considered that the applicants should have availed themselves of the appropriate remedies prior to 4 June 1999. The Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear the applicants’ appeal on points of law.
47. The Court notes that parallel to the proceedings in the applicants’ case the Supreme Court became aware of interpretive difficulties having arisen in connection with the application of the set of legal provisions concerning the State’s liability in tort in the context of various cases where the parties sought redress of violations of breaches of the right to the peaceful enjoyment of possessions committed in the past, prior to the democratic reforms carried out in Poland. In January 2010 the President of the Supreme Court requested the Civil Chamber of that Court to adopt a resolution with a view to harmonizing the relevant judicial practice. In response to that request, the seven-judge bench of that Chamber acknowledged the importance of the issues involved, and held that a resolution of the Chamber sitting as a full bench was called for. Ultimately the Civil Chamber, having acknowledged the divergences in judicial practice adopted a resolution and held that the three-year time-limit within which to claim compensation for damage caused by an unlawful administrative decision given prior to 1 September 2004 started to run from the date of the correcting decision.
48. The Court first observes that the circumstances of the present case the fact that the other successors of the former owners of the same property obtained compensation is of no relevance for the assessment of the applicants’ complaint. Likewise, the fact that the defendant State Treasury chose not to challenge the first-instance decisions in cases brought by other persons, successors to the original owners, was not decisive in the assessment of the case.
49. The Court further notes that the circumstances of the present case should be distinguished from these it examined in the case of Plechanow v. Poland, no. 22279/04, 7 July 2009. In that case it found a breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention on account of the fact that the applicants had initially sued for damages caused by a decision declared null and void an entity of public administration which subsequently, under evolving case-law of the domestic courts, lost its locus standi. As a result, their claim was unsuccessful. The Court emphasised that when a public entity was liable for damages, the State’s positive obligation to facilitate identification of the correct defendant was all the more important. It concluded that shifting the duty of identifying the competent authority to be sued to the applicants and depriving them of compensation on this basis failed to strike a fair balance between the public interest and the applicants’ rights.
However, in the present case the discrepancies complained of by the applicants did not concern issue of such essential importance for the fate of the case as the determination of the defendant authority. The outcome case turned on the determination of the beginning and length of the civil law time-limits relevant for the existence of the applicants’ civil claim arising against an administrative decision declared null and void. The Court is of the view that while legal uncertainty is certainly to be avoided, the degree to which it affects the success of a civil claim is an important factor for the Court to decide whether the circumstances of a case were Convention-compliant. In the present case the degree of uncertainty related to the subtle aspects of the substance of the case. The Court is prepared to accept that it did not concern fundamental procedural aspects of the case and was therefore not such as to entail per se a breach of the Convention.
50. In these circumstances, the Court is satisfied that the domestic courts not only acknowledged the existence of the difficulties arising in connection with the interpretation of the statute applied in the applicants’ case, but also took necessary and sufficient measures to address these difficulties by resorting to a specific mechanism designated to harmonise judicial practice (see Schwarzkopf and Taussik v. the Czech Republic (dec.), no. 42162/02, 2 December 2008; Teresa Kowalczyk v. Poland, no. 23987/05, §§ 46-48, 11 October 2011; Remuszko v. Poland, no. 1562/10, §§ 92-99, 16 July 2013, Nejdet Şahin and Perihan Şahin v. Turkey [GC], no. 13279/05, §§ 88-95, 20 October 2011, all mutatis mutandis).
51. Having regard to the circumstances of the case seen as a whole, the Court is of the view that the State has not failed to comply with its obligation to secure to the applicants the effective enjoyment of their rights guaranteed by Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. Therefore, there has been no violation of Article 1 of that provision.
II. OTHER ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF THE CONVENTION
52. The applicants complained that their rights guaranteed in Article 6 § 1 were violated in that their case was decided in a manner inconsistent with decisions of the Polish courts given in similar cases.
53. The relevant part of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention reads as follows:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ... everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal ...”
54. The Court notes that this complaint is linked to the one examined above and must therefore likewise be declared admissible.
55. The Court considers that this complaint under Article 6 does not give rise to any issue separate from the one which has already been examined under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT, UNANIMOUSLY,
1. Declares the application admissible;
2. Holds that there has been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention;
3. Holds that there is no need to examine the complaint under Article 6 § 1 of the Convention.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 6 October 2015, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Fatoş Aracı Guido
Deputy Registrar President