1996/11/05 - I. ÚS 5/96: Undue Delay

05 November 1996

HEADNOTE

Inactivity by a

court, or its incommensurate delay in hearing a matter constitute an

infringement of Article 38 para. 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

and Basic Freedoms,1) according to which everybody has the right to have

her case considered without unnecessary delay.
 



CZECH REPUBLIC

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

JUDGMENT

IN THE NAME OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC


of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic (Panel I) of 5

November 1996 sp. zn. I. ÚS 5/96 in the matter of the constitutional

complaint of M. Č. and others against the court’s inactivity and its

delay in court proceeding no. 15 C 246/93 of the District Court in Ústí

nad Labem.

The Constitutional Court of the Czech

Republic requires the District Court in Ústí nad Labem not to persist in

its delay in the matter conducted before it under the file number 15 C

246/93 and to hear the matter without delay.
 

 


REASONING
 


1. 

In their constitutional complaint, the petitioners object to the

inactivity of the District Court in Ústí nad Labem in the matter with

file no. 15 C 246/93.  The petitioners conclude that, as a result of the

District Court’s inactivity, their right to have their complaint

considered without unnecessary delay as meant by Article 38 para. 2 of

the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms1) has been

violated.  They ask, therefore, that a judgment be issued in which the

District Court in Ústí nad Labem is instructed to order a hearing in the

petitioners’ matter, conducted under the file no. 15 C 246/93.

In essence, therefore, this is a constitutional complaint filed against

some impingement by public authorities other than a decision, as a

result of which constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights were

infringed.

In their constitutional complaint, the petitioners

assert that, until 24 February 1993, they were the tenants of apartments

in Ústí nad Labem - Předlicích.  The owner of the apartments in

question is the municipal division of Ústí nad Labem 1 - City,

represented by the Local Office in Ústí nad Labem 1.  On 24 February

1993, the Municipal Police of the city of Ústí nad Labem broke into the

petitioners’ apartments, and, with the assistance of employees of the

residential division of the Local Office in Ústí nad Labem, they cleared

the apartments in question such that the belongings and the furnishings

were placed out on the street, and they compelled the tenant and

members of their households to vacate the apartments.  In addition, the

documents concerning the apartment were taken from their possession. 

Train tickets to Slovakia, as well as freight space for their apartment

furnishings, were purchased for them, and in the presence of the police

they were placed on a train, which took them off to Slovakia.

The

Local Office in Ústí nad Labem justified its conduct by pointing to the

fact that the petitioners expressed the desire to vacate the

apartments.  Equally, in the context of their arbitrary resettlement of

the petitioners it was considered that, as Slovak citizens, they should

be provided with apartments in Slovakia, which did not happen.  The

Municipal Office in Chmiňanské Jakubovany refused to accept them into

the territory of Slovakia for the reason that they are probably Czech

citizens.  Consequently, the petitioners sold off their property and

returned back to Ústí nad Labem.  Since they were not permitted to live

in their original apartments, they lodged with the District Court in

Ústí nad Labem a complaint requesting a determination that they are the

lessees of apartments in Ústí nad Labem - Předlicích, as indicated in

the complaint, and that the defendant is obliged to give them access to

their apartments and to issue them a lease contract.  In addition, in

the complaint they submitted a petition seeking provisional measures

that would allow them access and use of the apartments within three days

of the issuance of the provisional measures.  The Local Office in Ústí

nad Labem 1 was designated as the defendant.  The complaint was filed

with the District Court in Ústí nad Labem on 21 May 1993.

In

consequence of a filing error, the complaint requesting a determination

that lease relations continued was registered under the file no. 15 C

246/93, and the petition for issuing provisional measures was registered

separately under file no. 15 C 243/93.  In both cases, however, the

District Court in Ústí nad Labem did not take a single step until the

time when the constitutional complaint was filed.  Then on 9 January

1996 it made a decision in the matter of provisional measures, namely,

by ruling no. 15 C 243/93 of 9 January 1996, it dismissed the

proceeding.  The grounds for its decision were that the defendant did

not meet the procedural requirements for the proceeding, that is the

capacity to be a party to a proceeding, since the municipal division

Ústí nad Labem (Local Office in Ústí nad Labem 1) lacks capacity, in the

sense meant in the Act on Municipalities, to be a party to a proceeding

in according with § 19 of the Civil Procedure Code.2) Then in appellate

proceedings, the first-instance decision was affirmed by resolution of

the Regional Court in Ústí nad Labem, file no. 10 Co 125/96 of 28

February 1996.

Despite reminders on the part of the petitioners’

council in relation to matter 15 C 246/93, that is in the matter of the

determination complaint, as of yet no action has been taken.

It

is clear from the 25 March 1996 and 26 April 1996 memoranda/notes of the

District Court in Ústí nad Labem, that that court is cognizant of

delays in the proceeding.  It declares that registering the matter into

two files instead of into one was a flawed manner of proceeding.  In

addition, it states that it has not up until now ordered a hearing in

the matter of the determination complaint, which has resulted in

demonstrable delay.  It justifies the situation by citing the

insufficient number of judges and the consequence arising therefrom of

overworked judge, who is dealing with this case.  In conclusion, it

states that a request for the payment of court fees and for curing

defects in the pleading concerning the designation of the defendant will

be made in the matter.  The actual decision in the constitutional

complaint it leave entirely to the Constitutional Court’s sole

discretion.
    
2.  In the given case, it was demonstrated

entirely beyond dispute in part by the views expressed by the District

Court in Ústí nad Labem, in part by the content of the attached file of

the District Court in Ústí nad Labem, file no. 15 C 243/93, that that

court truly is considering and deciding on the petitioners’ rights in an

incommensurate time frame.  Due to its inactivity in the matter of file

no. 15 C 246/93, the court thus impinged upon the right guaranteed by

the Charter to judicial and other legal protection, specifically upon

the rights in Article 38 para. 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights

and Basic Freedoms.1) According to this provision, everyone has the

right to have her case considered without unnecessary delay, which was

not respected in the petitioners’ case.

In the case of this

constitutional complaint, some impingement other than a decision upon

the constitutionally-guaranteed right enshrined in Article 38 para. 2 of

the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Basic Freedoms was proven,

therefore the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic decided as

stated above.

 



I. US 5/96
Overview of the most important legal regulations

1.  

 Art. 38 par. 2 of Act no. 2/1993 Coll., the Charter of Fundamental

Rights and Freedoms, provides that everyone has the right to have his

case considered in public, without unnecessary delay, and in his

presence, as well as to express her views on all of the admitted

evidence. The public may be excluded only in cases specified by law.

2.  

 § 19 of Act no. 99/1963 Coll., the Civil Procedure Code, provides that

anyone who has capacity to have rights and obligations, or, anyone to

whom the Act assigns it, has capacity to be a party to proceedings.