AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
by László JÁRFÁS
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 23 September 2008 as a Chamber composed of:
Işıl Karakaş, judges,
and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having regard to the above application lodged on 22 July 2005,
Having regard to the decision to apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the case together,
Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicants,
Having deliberated, decides as follows:
The applicant, Mr László Járfás, is a Hungarian national who was born in 1945 and lives in Budapest. He is represented before the Court by Mr I. Barbalics, a lawyer practising in Budapest. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr L. Höltzl, Agent, Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement.
The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.
On 16 February 1993 the applicant brought an action against his employer before the Veszprém Labour Court requesting compensation in the amount of 4,000,000 Hungarian forints (HUF) (approximately 15,800 euros (EUR)) for non-pecuniary damage and an additional monthly allowance of HUF 35,000 (approximately EUR 140) for pecuniary damage. The Veszprém Labour Court transferred the case to the Veszprém County Regional Court, because in the meantime the defendant company had gone into liquidation and the Regional Court was the competent authority to deal with the issue. The initial date of the liquidation procedure was 28 December 1991.
On 25 September 1997 the Regional Court, after having held three hearings and obtained the opinion of a forensic medical expert, dismissed the applicant's claims. On appeal, the Supreme Court, acting as a second-instance court, quashed the first-instance decision and remitted the case to the Regional Court on 4 January 1999.
Subsequently, the applicant raised his claims again. After having held nine hearings, the Regional Court delivered a decision on 16 July 2002. It partly found for the applicant and ruled that HUF 17,270,958 (approximately EUR 68,400), and an additional HUF 231,670 (approximately EUR 900) had to be registered on the applicant's behalf as a creditor's claim (hitelezői igény) in the liquidation procedure. On appeal, the Supreme Court, acting as a second-instance court, upheld this decision on 4 October 2004.
On 23 December 2004 the applicant lodged a petition for review with the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court returned the applicant's motion for completion, observing that it did not meet the minimum requirements of a petition for review in that it failed to indicate a relevant breach of law or contain a clear request to have the final decision changed. It required the applicant to resubmit an amended petition in order that an examination of at least the admissibility thereof could be carried out. However, the applicant failed to comply with the Supreme Court's supplementation order.
On 19 January 2005 the Supreme Court dismissed the applicant's petition for review as inadmissible, since it was incomplete. The applicant lodged a complaint against this decision.
On 5 April 2005 the Supreme Court dismissed the applicant's complaint as incompatible ratione materiae with the relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. It pointed out that, in accordance with those provisions, no appeal whatsoever lay against inadmissibility decisions of the Supreme Court.
In December 2004 the debtor began to transfer the sum awarded into the applicant's bank account in instalments. The last instalment was paid in June 2005.
The applicant complained that the proceedings had lasted an unreasonably long time, in breach of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. Moreover, he complained in that connection about the outcome of the proceedings and alleged that they had been unfair. Finally, he complained that as a result of the decisions given by the courts in his case, his right to property had been violated in breach of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention.
The applicant complained that the proceedings had lasted an unreasonably long time. He relied on Article 6 § 1 of the Convention which, in its relevant part, provides:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a... hearing within a reasonable time... by [a] ... tribunal...”
The Government argued that the application should be declared inadmissible as the applicant had failed to introduce his application within the six-month period prescribed by Article 35 § 1 of the Convention. They argued that the final decision in the case was that of the Supreme Court of 4 October 2004. Since the applicant only lodged his application on 22 July 2005, he had failed to observe the six-month time-limit. The applicant's review petition, rejected by the Supreme Court at the admissibility stage, could not be regarded as an effective remedy and did not, in their view, influence the running of the time-limit.
The applicant contested this argument. He pointed out in particular that the decisions of the Supreme Court of 19 January and 5 April 2005, although formally being inadmissibility decisions, in fact dealt with the merits of the case and were, therefore, effective remedies which had to be exhausted.
Article 35 § 1 of the Convention, in so far as relevant, provides:
“The Court may only deal with the matter ... within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken.”
The Court observes that the Supreme Court gave a final decision in the applicant's case on 4 October 2004. His subsequent motions were declared inadmissible in preliminary proceedings because they did not meet the minimum requirements prescribed by law. The Court is therefore satisfied that these proceedings before the Supreme Court cannot be regarded as an effective remedy in the circumstances and did not influence the running of the six-month time-limit, which consequently expired on 5 April 2005. However, the application was only introduced on 22 July 2005, that is, belatedly. It follows that the application must be declared inadmissible, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention. Accordingly, Article 29 § 3 of the Convention should no longer apply to the case.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.
Sally Dollé Françoise Tulkens