« PreviousContinue »
Moreover the administration of justice and local government were not kept distinct : consequently both civil and criminal cases were subject to an indirect and secret procedure in writing, which was intricate and dilatory, and often endangered material justice. All this was soon changed. Act LIV of 1868 introduced a new and opportune procedure in civil cases : while Act IV of 1869 made the administration of justice distinct from local government, determined the qualifications of judges, and secured the independence of their position. In 1871 the Courts of first instance were organised by the State; and, for the management of criminal cases, the French system of public procurators was adopted. These fundamental reforms were added to later on; and wherever they proved inadequate, they were modified again. For instance, in the judicial organisation, the number of divisional Courts, which had originally been too large, was essentially reduced ; a simpler and cheaper procedure was introduced for the trial of commercial and less important cases; in civil cases the system of appeal was organised in a more expedient manner; later on the Courts of second instance (the so-called “King's Bench") were decentralised: and a radical reforni both of civil and criminal procedure was undertaken. In the case of the latter, the reform, which was based, as in the Western States of Europe, on the principles of publicity, oral proceedings, and directness, by the general application of the system of trial by jury, previously confined to libel actions, in 1896 and 1897 had, apart from some more recent modifications, been brought to a conclusion: while the reform of civil procedure, which has only partly been carried into effect by the legislation of 1893 and by several laws of more recent date dealing with points of detail, has for some time been ready in its draft form, and will, it may be hoped, before long be carried into effect. These reforms find their complement in the re-organisation of the legal profession in 1874,-a re-organisation, however, which, owing to the unfavourable situation of the legal profession, still needs to be essentially improved upon, -and in the adoption of the institution of notaries public in 1875. And, finally, as the crowning piece of the work of establishing the judiciary organisation on a modern basis, I may mention the creation, in 1883, of the adminis
I trative Court, which at first dealt with tax and charges causes only, while in 1896 its sphere of authority was extended to cover all grievances relating to affairs of administration. More recently still, last year, a Court was organised for the settlement of conflicts between the judicial and the administrative authorities.
In connection with the regeneration of the judiciary organisations and judicial procedure, the codification of the material law required by the new conditions was begun before long
The first demand of the public was for the creation of a modern Commercial law; for although, as far back as 1840, the Hungarian Parliament had passed several laws relating to commercial affairs (including the law of bills of exchange and of bankruptcy) which in the conditions prevalent at the time implied considerable progress, they were not on a level with more recent legislation passed in other parts of Europe, and with the rise of trade. Moreover, these laws were not valid throughout the whole territory belonging to the Hungarian Crown, a fact that led to many conflicts and differenccs. After careful preparation, the new commercial code was codified in 1875, and the new law of bills of exchange in 1876. Both were drafted with proper regard for the existing European legislation and jurisprudence. For the most part, however, they were modelled on the general German Commercial Code of 1861, or rather on the Austrian code which is identical with the same, and on the German-Austrian Bills of Exchange Act of 1847
respectively. We were obliged to follow the same, not only because they were admitted to be the best and most perfect legislative creations, but because we were in the closest connection with the commercial world of Germany and Austria. These two Acts were complemented in 1881 by a new Bankruptcy Act, which essentially strengthened the position of the creditors of reckless or dishonest debtors. On the other hand, it seemed necessary to offer due protection against the abuses of creditors, a result attained by the restriction of excessive interest on loans and of usury of all kinds, by the punishment of the same, and by the limitation of other forms of business (e.g., the regulation of the sale of lottery tickets and stocks on the system of payment by instalments). In this respect, however, still further measures appear to be required, some of which are about to be realised, while others are still in course of preparation and will amount to a radical revision of the Commercial law. On the table of the House lies a draft for increasing the rigour of the Act of 1883 relating to usury and for preventing the fraudulent transfer of business, as well as a draft for a law relating to cheques passed at the Conference of the delegates of the Central European Economic Societies held last year in Budapest, and drawn up on the basis of the principles already sanctioned in Austria and Germany. There is also in preparation the draft of a law relating to co-operative societies, which in Hungary have given rise to many abuses, a fact in consequence of which the Legislature, as far back as 1898, provided that the co-operative societies established for peasant farmers and industrials and supported by a central institute should be protected against every kind of spoliation. Similarly, there are drafts for laws dealing with purchases by the “ hire purchase system,” insurance societies, mining, exchanges and exchange business, and for Maritime law: the latter, not being regulated by Hungarian Commercial law,
requires special legislation as soon as possible, all the more so as both on the Hungarian and Austrian coasts an edict dating from the 18th century (Edito politico di navigazione) is in force in combination with the original French “Code de Commerce" dating from 1807, which was introduced as a consequence of the conquests of Napoleon I. The validity of the same lasts until a new law is passed, a contingency that, in consequence of the suspension of community with Austria already referred to, may be expected in Hungary within a short time. It is natural that when the Maritime law is codified, due regard will be had for the results of the more recent international congresses and in particular of the diplomatic conferences.
In connection with Commercial law, I must mention those laws also which have been passed in respect to the carrying on and encouragement of industry and to industrial property and copyright, by which we have endeavoured to follow in the steps of Western nations. To the first group belong the Industrial Acts of 1872 and 1884, which are, however, at present under revision, and have already been essentially supplemented by the laws dealing with “Sunday rest,” sick funds, inspectors of industry, and by those passed quite recently concerning the compulsory insurance of industrial and commercial employés against sickness and accidents. To the latter group belong the Act of 1884 dealing with copyright, the Act of 1890 concerning the protection of trade marks, which was essentially modified in 1895 by the recognition of the validity of words as trade marks, and the Patent Act created in 1895. The latter has, however, also been subjected to revision, as we are about to enter the International Union, a step we have decided upon in concert with Austria. To the same group belongs the general regulation of unfair competition, in respect of which several drafts have already been prepared and discussed.
In the codification of material law, perhaps even more important than Commercial law was Criminal law, which in Hungary proper, since the invalidation, in 1861, of the Austrian Penal Code introduced in 1852, had been almost entirely without a legal basis: it had, in fact, practically depended upon judicial practice and upon the discretion of judges, a course of proceeding which is not at all in conformity with the fundamental principles of Criminal law. As far back as 1843 a splendid draft for a penal code was prepared, which showed great progress in view of the criminal jurisprudence of those days, and in fact contained radical changes in many respects,—e.g., in particular it abolished death sentences. For that very reason, however, a conflict arose between the liberal Lower and the ultraconservative Upper House, which prevented the passing into law of the draft. Consequently the work of creating a penal code had to be commenced afresh after the restoration of the constitution. The draft just mentioned proved to be somewhat out of date: therefore it could not simply be passed into law as it stood. Many experiments to use the said draft as a basis proved futile: and it was not until 1878, after a long course of preparation and a thorough discussion of the matter, that the new Hungarian Penal Code was completed. It is true that the said code cannot claim any particular originality, it being in fact just as nearly related to the German Criminal Code of 1870 as the Hungarian Commercial law is to the German Commercial Code; and even its system of punishments is not so radical—even in respect of the classification of crimes—as the draft of 1843 : but it occupies an important position among the codes of Europe, a fact that has been admitted by foreign authorities too. As this code was concerned with crimes and offences only, another penal code was drawn up in 1879, dealing with misdemeanours (minor offences). Both these codes were put into force in 1880 by special Act of Parliament. But the recent remarkable progress of Criminal law, the ideas