(Application no. 25454/06)
20 December 2011
This judgment is final but it may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Kovacsics and Autómobil Kft. v. Hungary,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Committee composed of:
Dragoljub Popović, President,
Paulo Pinto de Albuquerque, judges,
and Françoise Elens-Passos, Deputy Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 29 November 2011,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
1. The case originated in an application (no. 25454/06) against the Republic of 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 Róbert Kovacsics (“the first applicant”) and by a Hungarian business entity, Autómobil Kft. (“the second applicant”), on 6 June 2006.
2. The applicants were represented by Ms M. Kovacsics, a lawyer practising in Budapest. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr L. Höltzl, Agent, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.
3. On 9 June 2010 the President of the Second Section decided to give notice of the application to the Government. In accordance with Protocol No. 14, the application was allocated to a Committee of three Judges.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
4. The first applicant was born in 1953 and lives in Szentendre. He is the managing director of the second applicant, a limited liability company with its seat in Szentendre, established in 1990.
5. On 9 October 2000 a limited liability company brought an action against the second applicant before the Pest County Regional Court, requesting the court to establish its ownership on a real estate.
6. On 12 June 2001 the plaintiff company submitted further claims and extended its action to the first applicant and six others.
7. On 16 December 2002 the court obtained an expert opinion.
8. On 10 October 2005 the court discontinued the proceedings in respect of the first applicant, as the plaintiff withdrew this part of his claim.
9. On 13 December 2005 the court held a hearing. It established that the discontinuation of the proceedings in respect of the first applicant had become final in the absence of appeal. The court also delivered its judgment on this day in respect of the second applicant. In the absence of appeal by the parties, the judgment became final on 3 February 2006.
10. The applicants complained that the length of the proceedings had been incompatible with the “reasonable time” requirement of Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Government contested that argument.
11. The period to be taken into consideration in respect of the first applicant began on 12 June 2001 and ended on 13 December 2005, therefore lasting four years and six months before one court instance. As regards the second applicant, the proceedings began on 9 October 2000 and ended on 3 February 2006, lasting thus five years and three months before one level of jurisdiction. In view of such lengthy proceedings, the application must be declared admissible.
12. 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, among many other authorities, Frydlender v. France [GC], no. 30979/96, § 43, ECHR 2000-VII). 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.
13. Relying on Article 41 of the Convention, the second applicant claimed 45,933,555 Hungarian forints1 (HUF) in respect of pecuniary damage. Moreover, each applicant claimed HUF 15,000,0002 in non-pecuniary damage. The Government contested the claims. The Court sees no causal link between the pecuniary damage claimed and the violation found and therefore rejects this claim. However, it considers that the applicants must have sustained some non-pecuniary damage and awards them each, on an equitable basis, EUR 4,000 under this head.
14. The first applicant also claimed HUF 29,0403, while the second applicant HUF 2,442,1274 for the costs and expenses incurred before the domestic courts and the Court. They also requested jointly the reimbursement of HUF 2,115,7145 for their lawyer’s costs. This amount should correspond to the billable legal fees incurred in the domestic proceedings and before the Court. The Government contested these claims. Regard being had to the documents in its possession and to its case-law, the Court considers it reasonable to award the applicants jointly, the sum of EUR 1,000 in respect of all costs incurred.
15. The Court considers it appropriate that the default interest 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 applicants, within three months, the following amounts, to be converted into Hungarian forints at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:
(i) EUR 4,000 (four thousand euros) each, plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(ii) EUR 1,000 (one thousand euros) jointly, plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicants, in respect of costs and expenses;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts 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 applicants’ claim for just satisfaction.
Done in English, and notified in writing on 20 December 2011, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Françoise Elens-Passos Dragoljub
Deputy Registrar President
KOVACSICS AND AUTÓMOBIL KFT. v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT
KOVACSICS AND AUTÓMOBIL KFT. v. HUNGARY JUDGMENT