AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF
Application nos. 25694/03 and 28338/03
by Károly ANDORKA and Ferenc VAVRA
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting on 12 September 2006 as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr A.B. Baka,
Mr I. Cabral Barreto,
Mrs A. Mularoni,
Mrs E. Fura-Sandström,
Ms D. Jočienė,
Mr D. Popović, judges,
and Mrs S. Dollé, Registrar,
Having regard to the above applications lodged on 25 and 28 July 2003, respectively,
Having regard to the decisions to join the applications, apply Article 29 § 3 of the Convention and examine the admissibility and merits of the cases 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 applicants, Mr Károly Andorka and Mr Ferenc Vavra, are Hungarian nationals who were born in 1967 and 1941 and live in Szeremle and Baja, Hungary, respectively. The respondent Government are 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 2 September 1996 the Baja District Public Prosecutor’s Office preferred a bill of indictment against the applicants, charging them with bribery and other offences.
On 14 October 1996 the case was assigned to the Baja District Court. This court suspended the proceedings on 22 September 1998 with a view to obtaining the Constitutional Court’s ruling on a procedural question.
After the constitutionality proceedings had been terminated on 29 May 2001, the bill of indictment was served on the applicants on 25 June 2001. In the ensuing proceedings, the applicants were assisted by defence counsel of their choice.
On 4 September, 6 and 7 November and 13 December 2001, the District Court held hearings and, on the latter date, found the applicants guilty of bribery. They were sentenced to fines.
On appeal, on 19 December 2002 the Bács-Kiskun County Regional Court held a public hearing, which the applicants did not attend, despite having been properly summoned. Their lawyer was present. The court upheld the applicants’ conviction. In application of section 267 § 2 of the (Old) Code of Criminal Procedure, the judgment was served on the applicants’ lawyer on 23 January and on the applicants on 28 and 30 January 2003, respectively.
The applicants complain under Article 6 § 1 that the proceedings lasted an unreasonably long time.
The applicants complain of the unreasonable protraction of the criminal proceedings conducted against them. They rely on Article 6 § 1 which provides as relevant.
“In the determination of ... any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal...”
The Government observe that the final decision was served on the applicants’ lawyer on 23 January 2003. Consequently, the applications were introduced out of time. Concerning the merits, they submit that the courts showed the requisite diligence in dealing with the applicants’ case. The applicants contest these views, arguing in particular that they received their own copies of the judgment – to which they were entitled by the law – only on 28 and 30 January 2003, which are therefore the dates from which to count the six-month time-limit. Accordingly, their applications were lodged in time.
Article 35 § 1 of the Convention reads as follows:
“The Court may only deal with the matter after all domestic remedies have been exhausted, according to the generally recognised rules of international law, and within a period of six months from the date on which the final decision was taken.”
The Court reiterates that the six-month period begins to run on the day after the date on which the final domestic decision was pronounced orally in public or, if not so pronounced, was communicated to the applicant or the applicant’s lawyer. This means that time starts to run when the applicant’s representative receives notification of a decision, even if the applicant is not informed until later (see Çelik v. Turkey (dec.), no. 52991/99, ECHR 2004-X; Pejić v. Croatia (dec.), no. 66894/01, 19 December 2002; Keskin and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 36091/97, 7 September 1999; Bölükbaş and Others v. Turkey (dec.), no. 37793/97, 12 October 1999). In the present case, the final judgment including the reasoning (compare and contrast Worm v. Austria, judgment of 29 August 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-V, p. 1547, §§ 32-33) was served on the applicants’ lawyer on 23 January 2003. The Court is thus satisfied that the six-month period started to run on 23 January 2003 and expired on Wednesday, 23 July 2003. Consequently, the applications, lodged on 25 and 28 July 2003, respectively, were introduced out of time, notwithstanding the fact that the applicants received their own copies of the judgment only on 28 and 30 January 2003, respectively.
It follows that the application of Article 29 § 3 should be discontinued and the applications must be rejected, pursuant to Article 35 §§ 1 and 4 of the Convention.
For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the applications inadmissible.
S. Dollé J.-P. Costa
ANDORKA and VAVRA v. HUNGARY DECISION
ANDORKA and VAVRA v. HUNGARY DECISION