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Key facts of the case:

The petitioner (the insolvency administrator) was seeking compensation for the damage suffered by the maladministration of the Ministry of Agriculture’s agency– the Regional Veterinary and Food Administration. In 2008, the Regional Veterinary and Food Administration decided that the petitioner’s operation of food business is free from defects and meets the conditions and standards required by national and European legislation. The same decision was issued when the owner was changed in the same year. Subsequently, an audit of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Health and Consumption was carried out.It was  proven that cross-contamination has been in operation since 2008 and thus the plant has been ineligible already during the previous controls . As a result, the operation had to be ceased and the new owner filed for insolvency proceedings. The petitioner argued that the damage was caused by maladministration of the Veterinary Administration, which had inconsistently carried out previous controls.The new owner thus bought a subject that was actually ineligible for operation.

The petitioner motioned the Constitutional Court pursuant to Art. 127 of the Constitution. The petitioner argues violation of fundamental rights included, among others, also in Articles 47(1), 47 (2) and 20 of the Charter.

According to the petitioner, the Supreme Court in its appeal departed from the previous finding of the Constitutional Court that in 2016 already decided about this petition. ( No. III. ÚS 408/2016-97 of 18 October 2016). In this former ruling of 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Supreme Court in its judgment violated Art. 47 (1) of the Charter. The Supreme Court should had been bound to follow Constitutional Court finding. However, the appeal of the Supreme Court instigated through the institute of a new trial confirmed its previous reasoning and thus departed from the finding of the Constitutional Court.

Moreover, the Supreme Court accepted in the new trial also an extraordinary appeal of the General Attorney of the Slovak Republic (Generálny prokurátor Slovenskej republiky) under the conditions that disadvantage the petitioner and thus violates the principle of equality of arms.

 

The petitioner argued that the Supreme Court violated the right to fair trial, the principle of legal certainty and violation of equality before the law.

Constitutional Court in its finding applied the Charter and argued that the Supreme Court violated the petitioner’s right to fair trial guaranteed in Art. 47(2) of the Charter. The Constitutional Court did not find violation of the right entailed Art. 47 (1) and Art. 20 of the Charter.  The Constitutional Court annulled the judgment of the Supreme Court and returned the case for another legal proceeding.

  • Art 47 (3), Art. 46 (1), Art. 127 (2) of  the Constitution of the Slovak Republic, Act. No. 460/1992 Coll., as amended. (zákona č.460/1992 Z.z., Ústava, v platnom znení)
  • Art. 37 (3), Art. 36 (0) of the Constitutional Act No 23/1991 Coll, Bill of fundamental rights and Freedoms (ústavného zákona č. 23/1991 Zb., ktorým da uvádza Listina základných práv a slobôd)
  • Art. 20, Art. 47 (1), Art. 47 (2), of the Charter
  • Art. 14 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  • Art. 6 (1) of the European Convention on Human Rights

Key legal question raised by the Court:

Whether the departure of the Supreme Court from the finding of the Constitutional Court that bound the Supreme Court for further legal proceedings and whether admission of the appeal of the Attorney General  amounted to violation of the right to fair trial and of the principle of equal protection of law. 

Outcome of the case:

The Constitutional Court found that the petioner’s right to a fair trial was violated by the resolution of the Supreme Court of 31 January 2017, No. 2 M Cdo 1/2017. The Constitutional Court rejected the remainder of the petitioner’s arguments.