Károly Nagy v Hungary referred to Grand Chamber

Mr Nagy was pastor of a parish of the Hungarian Reformed Church. In 2005, disciplinary proceedings were brought against him after a local newspaper had reported him as saying that State subsidies had been paid unlawfully to a Calvinist boarding school. He was immediately suspended and his tenure was eventually terminated following a decision by the ecclesiastical courts.

He then brought proceedings before both the labour and civil courts. Both were ultimately discontinued on the ground that the courts had no jurisdiction. The labour courts discontinued the proceedings in December 2006, on the ground that the dispute concerned his service as a pastor and therefore the provisions of Labour Law were not applicable in his case. That decision was upheld on appeal in April 2007. His civil law claim was also ultimately discontinued in May 2009, the Supreme Court concluding that there was no contractual relationship between Mr Nagy and the Church and, therefore, that his claim had no basis in civil law.

Mr Nagy complains about the Hungarian courts’ refusal to hear his claim for compensation on the merits, alleging that he had been denied access to a court merely on account of his position as a Calvinist pastor. He relies in particular on Article 6 § 1 ECHR (right to a fair hearing).

In Károly Nagy v Hungary [2015] ECHR 1051, the Second Section held, by four votes to three, that there had been no violation of Article 6 § 1. The Chamber noted in particular that, although the Hungarian Supreme Court had held that the State courts had had no jurisdiction to examine Mr Nagy’s claim, it had in fact examined the claim in the light of the relevant domestic legal principles of contract law and found that there was no contractual relationship between Mr Nagy and the Church. He could not, therefore, argue that he had been deprived of the right to a determination of the merits of his claim.

We commented at the time that “in view of the degree of dissent in the Second Section, one cannot help wondering whether it will go to the Grand Chamber”. So we are not at all surprised that on 2 May 2016 the Grand Chamber Panel accepted Mr Nagy’s request for referral to the Grand Chamber.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Károly Nagy v Hungary referred to Grand Chamber" in Law & Religion UK, 3 May 2016, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2016/05/03/karoly-nagy-v-hungary-referred-to-grand-chamber/

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