The criteria which were questioned by the defendants regarding the admissibility of a reference for a preliminary ruling by this quasi-judicial equality body were its independence, the compulsory character of its jurisdiction and the judicial nature of its decisions. These were examined in detail by the Advocate General with reference to the settled case-law of the Court, and it was found that the only element which could be questioned was the compulsory character of the equality body’s jurisdiction, considering that an alternative legal remedy exists for taking action against discrimination before a civil court. However, understanding ‘compulsory’ as meaning the binding character of the decisions taken by the equality body and not its exclusiveness, the Advocate General invites the Court to seize the opportunity given by this case to clarify its case-law on this point, and to consider that the Commission for Protection against Discrimination is a ‘court or tribunal’.
Were the ECJ to follow the opinion of the Advocate General regarding the admissibility of the reference, it would have the opportunity to decide on an interesting case of indirect discrimination based on ethnic origin and the possibilities for justification of such discrimination. The facts of the case concerned the positioning of electricity meters at unreachable places in areas considered as being Roma-neighbourhoods, although these were placed in a very reachable way in all other areas of the municipality.
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