Press Release No: Individual Application 61/20
Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding a Violation of the Right of Access to a Court due to Dismissal of the Action for Reimbursement of Stamp Fee as Time-Barred
On 22 July 2020, the First Section of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the right of access to a court safeguarded by Article 36 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by B.A.Ş. (no. 2017/28013).
The applicant is a company engaging in import business in the automotive sector. The applicant company filed a request with the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (“TRT”) for the reimbursement of the surplus amount of the stamp fee it had paid erroneously for the imported vehicles. The applicant whose request was left unanswered filed an action before the incumbent administrative court (“the court”). His action was dismissed by the court as being time-barred. The applicant company then appealed the dismissal decision; however, it was dismissed by the Council of State that also rejected the applicant’s request for rectification of the decision.
The Applicant’s Allegations
The applicant maintained that its right of access to a court had been violated due to the dismissal, for being time-barred, of the action brought for the revocation of the act whereby its request for reimbursement of the paid surplus amount of stamp fee had been rejected.
The Court’s Assessment
For the full enjoyment, by those that are obliged to pay the necessary fees, of the right of access to a court, it is requisite to set up a mechanism for the reimbursement of any surplus amount paid based on their own fault as well as to provide them with the opportunity to access to a proper judicial review. The failure to provide an opportunity for the adjustment of the public receivables erroneously paid in excess, or rendering the available relevant judicial remedies dysfunctional due to the interpretations excessively narrowing their extents, impairs the right of access to a court.
In the present case, the inferior court indicated that any surplus amount of stamp fee paid based on an incorrect declaration could be reimbursed by filing a request with the administration. However, it also noted that such a request be filed within 60 days, the period for bringing an action, running from the date of accrual (payment).
It has been considered that this interpretation adopted by the inferior court hampered, to a great extent, the applicant’s access to court as it has precluded the applicant from correcting its errors that were noticed on the expiry of 60 days. In other words, in case of accruals based on the individuals’ own declarations, to start the period -prescribed for bringing an action or filing a request with the administration- running from the date of accrual means that the individuals are expected to bring an action, if there is an error in their declarations, within a period during which the given error has not been noticed yet.
The administrative remedy specified in Article 11 of Code no. 2577 enables the administration to correct an erroneous or unlawful process, if any, before an action is brought against an act performed by the administration. In the present case, the impugned stamp fee accrued based on the applicant’s declaration.
As a matter of fact, the extended application of the provision -introduced in consideration of the acts ex officio performed by the administration- to the accruals based on the applicant’s declaration is not fit for the intended purpose. That is because if the applicant had been aware of the error in its declaration, there would have been no erroneous accrual. Besides, to expect the applicant to have noticed the error of which it had not been aware at the time of its declaration, as well as to have filed a request with the administration for correction of the error within 60 days may lead to unjust consequences. It has been also observed that in the present case, the applicant company noticed its error and filed a request with the administration within a period of nearly 4 months, which is not indeed too long.
Accordingly, it has been concluded that the inferior court’s interpretation as to the limitation period for bringing an action precluded the applicant from bringing an action and thereby placed an excessive burden on it; and that the burden borne by the applicant was not proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued.
Consequently, the Court has found a violation of the right of access to a court.
This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.