Brussels (Brussels Morning) The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Tuesday that national judges must be allowed to seek its guidance. The case was referred to the ECJ from Hungary and involved a trial there where the defendant, a Swedish national, did not speak Hungarian, DW reported.
The judge in the case at the Pest Central District Court ruled that the defendant’s right to be informed of his rights could be infringed because Hungary does not have an official register of interpreters and translators.
The judge referred the case to the EU’s top court, a move Hungary’s Supreme Court deemed to be unlawful. The judge faced disciplinary proceedings which were dropped later.
The ECJ stressed that “EU law precludes disciplinary proceedings from being brought against a national judge on the ground that he or she has made a reference for a preliminary ruling to the Court of Justice”, adding that such proceedings could erode the of the courts.
According to the ECJ, “the principle of the primacy of EU law requires the lower court to disregard the decision of the supreme court of the member state concerned.”
Defendants must be informed
It added that EU member states “must take specific measures ensuring, first, that the quality of the interpretation and translations is sufficient to enable the suspect or accused person to understand the accusation against him or her.”
“A national court may conclude that, either because the interpretation provided was inadequate or it is impossible to ascertain its quality, a person has not been informed, in a language which he or she understands, of the accusation against him or her,” the ECJ concluded.
Hungary has previously both followed and ignored ECJ rulings, and has joined forces with Poland in opposing the European Commission over migration policy, freedom of the press and the rule of law.
The two EU member states have agreed to veto EU’s moves to punish the other.