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In re the Constitutionality of Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments

Case number:
32/1992 (V.29) AB
Country:
Hungary
Date of decision:
25 May 1992
Court / Arbiter:
Constitutional Court, unreviewable ( Constitutional )

Relevant law :
Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments, Articles 12.3-12.4., 17.3; 1949 Constitution, Article 61(1) ( Constitution )

Decision:

The right to receive and impart information of public interest is a fundamental right and Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments violates this right by providing town councils with absolute discretion to close meetings and deny access to records of such meetings.


Keywords:
Constitution
Minutes (including transcripts and other records of meetings)
Open government principles (including accountability, anti-corruption, democracy, participation in government, transparency)

Case details:

Facts

Act LXV of 1990 stipulates that on “justified grounds” town councils are able to convene closed sessions (Art. 12(3)) and can opt for votes by secret ballots (Art. 12(4)). Article 17(3) provides that constituents can gain access only to proposals and minutes of open meetings. Pursuant to a complaint, the Constitutional Court was asked to review the constitutionality of Articles 12.3-12.4 and 17.3 of the act. The complaint challenged the act’s non-disclosure provision as inconsistent with Article 61(1) of the Constitution which guarantees the right of individuals to receive and impart information. It was further asserted that this limitation in the act contradicts the principle of people’s sovereignty in Article 2 of the same act.

Decision

The Court recognized that the right to information is a fundamental right flowing directly from the Constitution and enhances the democratic operation of the state. The Court ruled that local governments were thus obliged to provide access to proceedings and decisions of local government bodies, particularly of town councils (section III, para. 1). Because Act LXV provides absolute discretion for the town councils to close meetings, the act places an unnecessary and disproportionate limitation on the right to receive information and the right to protection of personal data (section III, para. 2). Moreover, the act places an unnecessary and disproportionate limitation on the right to information by categorically denying access to the proposals and minutes of closed meetings irrespective of their content (section III, para. 3). The Court ruled that any legislation that designates documents as classified on the basis of something other than their content is unconstitutional (section III, para. 3). The Court rejected the complaint that sought to establish a constitutional violation on the basis of the government’s failure to make legislation on the protection of personal data (section IV, para. 1).

Resources:

Judgment of the Court.