The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on regulating the ways of making statements by the blind and the visually impaired

There is a regulation requiring the blind and the visually impaired to make a legal statement for real estate registration purposes in the form of a public document; therefore, they have, inter alia, to make a contract for the purchase of the immovable property also in the form of a public document. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has concluded that it violates their right of self-determination and freedom of action, and, as a result, infringes on the right to equal human dignity for all. László Székely has made recommendations to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Agriculture to amend the regulation.

A civil society organization representing the interests of the blind and the visually impaired, in its complaint lodged with the Commissioner, called it worrisome that, pursuant to the Act on real estate registration, the blind and the impaired shall conclude a contract for the purchase of an immovable property in the form of a public document or, as a minimum requirement, authorize someone, also in the form of a public document, to sign such a contract on their behalf.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights contacted the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Agriculture. The Ministers argued that, when making legal statements, the visually impaired are more exposed to the risk of making a mistake or being deceived. Using a public document serves their own interest as it fully attests to the measures or resolutions stipulated therein, the validity of the data and facts certified thereby, as well as to the fact, the time, and the method of the statement made into the public document in question. When drafting legal statements, notaries public shall provide complete and unbiased information on the legal regulation and the expected legal consequences, and learn, as far as possible, the client’s will; it has special significance in the case of persons who are unable to read and/or write.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights agrees that the rules of notarial proceedings provide security and safety to persons who are unable to read and/or write. It would be appropriate to adopt provisions that would enable these people, belonging to a particularly vulnerable group, to verify the contents of legal statements made by them. From this aspect, it seems logical that they have to make legal statements for real estate registration purposes in the form of public documents.

However, they could be provided with another option to make a statement: a private document containing certain safeguards and countersigned by an attorney, although presenting a theoretically greater but still reasonable risk, may turn out more favorable when opted for based on careful consideration by those concerned. Unfortunately, the prevailing legal regulations do not make it possible.

In his report, referring to the decision-making option of persons living with disabilities, the Ombudsman reminded of Article II of the Fundamental Law, setting forth the protection of human dignity, as well as the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. In this context, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has concluded that the provision stipulating that a legal statement for real estate registration purposes issued by a person who is unable to read and/or write shall be notarized and filed as a public document causes an impropriety related to right of self-determination and general freedom of action of the blind and the visually impaired, and, as a result, to the right to equal human dignity for all.

The Commissioner has requested the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Agriculture to consider the possibility of developing new legislation in cooperation with the Minister of Human Capacities, responsible for the coordination of the implementation of international conventions serving the interests of persons living with disabilities. It would enable the blind and the visually impaired, as well as other persons who are, for other reasons, unable to read and/or write, to decide, preserving their right of self-determination and freedom of choice, whether they want to make a legal statement for real estate registration purposes in the form of a public document, or they opt for another type of instrument equally suitable for protecting the rights and interests of those concerned and the security and safety of real estate transactions. László Székely has also suggested to the two Ministers that, if they deem it possible and necessary, they should inform those concerned, within the framework of an awareness-raising campaign or via taking similar measures, about the advantages of the notarial proceedings, and, within their competence, review the possibility of encouraging recourse to such proceedings.