The Constitutional Court recently considered the right to a fair trial. It held that the applicant’s right to a fair trial had been violated because the first instance court had based its verdict on irrelevant legislation. Accordingly, the Constitutional Court sent the case back to the first instance court to be re-examined.
The applicant argued that her right to a fair trial and the legality of crime and punishment principle had been violated on the basis the first instance court had rejected her earlier cancellation action regarding an administrative traffic fine, where the court’s reasoning was not relevant to the material facts.
The Constitutional Court upheld the applicant’s claim, emphasizing that all persons are constitutionally entitled to seek legal remedies and all court verdicts must indicate the justification for their decision. The court noted these rights arise from the Turkish Constitution (Article 36, right to fair trial; Article 141, publicity of hearings and the necessity of justified verdicts) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 6, right to fair trial).
The Constitutional Court noted that the court of first instance’s decision discussed driving without a license and issuing an administrative fine to the plate owner, rather than whether the driver complied with the law in these specific circumstances. According to the Constitutional Court, the verdict by the court of first instance is based on irrelevant legislation because the administrative fine is given for exceeding the speed limit and such fine should also be served to the plate owner. As a result, the Constitutional Court returned the matter to the court of first instance to be re-examined.
Dissenting judges in the Constitutional Court’s decision commented that serving the administrative fine to the plate owner does not violate the right to a fair trial. These dissenting judges noted:
- Previous Constitutional Court decisions show that where a legal or physical assumption exists, the burden of proof may shift to the accused party. However, the shifting burden does not violate the presumption of innocence, nor the right to fair a trial. Therefore, the dissenting judges commented that in the case at hand, the administrative fine can be served to the plate owner as well as the driver, since the identity of the driver cannot be easily determined.
- The relevant traffic rule’s purpose is to protect public order, as well as society’s health and security. Therefore, legislators can restrict several rights without exceeding citizen’s constitutional rights.
- Where there is no serious damage to the applicant, the Constitutional Court can rule applications as inadmissible, provided the application does not raise significant issues about applying and interpreting the Constitution, or determining the scope and limitations to fundamental rights.
The full text of the Constitutional Court’s reasoned decision (2014/1292, dated 10 June 2015) can be found at this link (only available in Turkish).