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Parliament approves bill limiting Constitutional Court appeals

Hungary’s Parliament on Monday approved a bill that limits the scope of parties who may initiate reviews of laws with the Constitutional Court from the start of 2012.

The legislation limits the parties who may initiate reviews of laws with the Constitutional Court to the government, one-quarter of MPs or an ombudsman. At present anybody may initiate such reviews.

Parliament approved the bill, requiring at two-thirds majority to pass, with a vote of 252 ayes and 102 nays.

The legislation also extends the Constitutional Court’s powers to include taking decisions on the constitutionality of court rulings. It can as before decide on the constitutionality of the application of law in specific court proceedings.

The changes are in line with Hungary’s new Constitution, which was approved in the spring and comes into force on January 1, 2012.

The legislation will terminate all ongoing Constitutional Court procedures related to challenges of laws on constitutional grounds on January 1, 2012, unless they were initiated by the aforementioned parties. However, other parties will have a three-month window, until March 31, 2012, to re-initiate the procedures that have been terminated, as long as the matters still remain in the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court under the new Constitution.

Under the new Constitution, the Constitutional Court will have the authority to review the constitutionality of and annul laws affecting the budget, the implementation of the budget, central taxes, levies, contribution payments, duties and the central conditions of local taxes if they violate basic rights, that is the right to life and dignity, the right to protect personal data, the freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and rights connected to Hungarian citizenship.

Legislation approved about a year ago has already introduced these restrictions.