Two individuals brought an action for damages against the applicant, Mr.Nunes Dias, in court. As he had moved and could not be traced, he was summoned by notice in a national newspaper. The judge appointed State Counsel’s Office as his representative. Half a year later a hearing took place at which the applicant was not present. The court granted the claim and ordered the Mr.Nunes Dias to pay the plaintiffs a sum equivalent to 26,186 euros.
Mr.Nunes Dias complained that he had not received a fair trial, since the hearing had taken place without his knowledge.
The Court reiterated that right to access to a court, which is one aspect of a right to a fair trial, may be subject to limitations, but these must not restrict or reduce the access in such a way or to such an extent that the very essence of the right is impaired. For the right of access to be effective, an individual must have a clear, practical opportunity to challenge an act that is an interference with his rights. To ensure adversarial proceedings, the interested party must be able to attend and participate in his trial - the party must be properly and in accordance with procedural requirements informed about the court hearing. The Court also pointed out that the rules relating to the procedures and time-limits to be observed in bringing proceedings are designed to ensure the proper administration of justice and compliance, in particular, with the principle of legal certainty. In the case at hand the Court found that the rules on summonses to appear were specifically designed to ensure the proper administration of justice. To extend proceedings indefinitely in order to trace the address of one of the persons involved might prove to be incompatible with the principle of legal certainty and the proper administration of justice. As the national court ordered the summonses by public notice only when it was satisfied that the applicant’s address could not be found and Mr.Nunes Dias could challenge the validity of those summonses the Court found that there was no breach of the applicant’s right of access to a court.