Double success: freedom of information and HCLU won!

The Metropolitan Appellate Court (Fővárosi Ítélőtábla) delivered its final judgment on appeal in the case against the Hungarian Official Gazette on March 2, 2006. The appellate court changed the verdict of the court of the first instance in favor of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU).

The Data Protection Act from Jun 2005 widened the legal possibilities of the public to access public officers’ personal data that are related to the positions held by the officers. Based on such regulations of the act we obtained certain information about the members of the editors committee of the Hungarian Official Gazette. We inquired about the exact amount of allowances, including salary and other bonuses or premium given to the members of the editors committee since the year of 2002. The chief executive officer of the Official Gazette rejected our request for such information. We filed an action against the Official Gazette and lost the case in front of the court of the first instance.

According to the final judgment that was delivered today by the appellate court it is irrelevant when the data actually arose. According to the court the rule of restraining retrospective effect is not applicable in these cases.

Andras Schiffer lawyer at HCLU representing HCLU pointed out that this final judgment can set a precedent for future cases. It is the first time that the court established the rule that in case of public data it is irrelevant when the data actually arose. According to the verdict the only relevant issue to be examined is whether at the time of the inquiry the data in question is still managed by the institution that was requested to release the data.

The court pointed out in its reasoning today that this is the adequate interpretation of the Data Protection Act’s rules that follows the goal and intention of the Parliament expressed in 1992 by passing the law on the disclosure of data of public interest. The court also pointed out that the amendment of the Data Protection act in Jun 2005 was indeed motivated by the pressure from the advocates of freedom of information.

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