By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that the impugned provision of the Law on the State Pensions of Officials and Servicemen is not in conflict with the Constitution, insofar as it provides that the periods of employment completed after 1 January 1995 under employment contracts in professional fire protection units are not regarded as periods of service to be taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen.
The Constitutional Court considered the case subsequent to a petition of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania. According to the petitioner, the impugned provision gives different treatment to officials who served in fire protection units and persons who worked there under employment contracts but performed the same functions; in addition, in the opinion of the petitioner, such a legal regulation takes no account of the legitimate expectations held by the persons concerned before the entry of the law into force.
It is noted in the ruling that, under the Constitution, the legislature has broad discretion in establishing a legal regulation governing the state pensions of officials and servicemen; however, this discretion is bound by the Constitution. In regulating the state pensions of officials and servicemen, the legislature must pay regard to the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and the equality of the rights of persons. The legislature may consider certain periods in connection with service as equivalent to the period of service required for granting this pension, but it is not obliged to include periods completed under employment contracts, unless such an obligation stems from the Constitution, among other things, with a view to implementing the obligations undertaken by the state and ensuring the legitimate expectations of the persons concerned.
The Constitutional Court found the period of service as determined by law to be compliant with the requirement stemming from the Constitution that the state pensions of officials and servicemen must be related specifically to the service of a person to the State of Lithuania.
It is noted in the ruling that the impugned provision lays down an exception to the general rule that the period of service taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen includes the periods of service completed by an official or a serviceman. This exception is established in order to implement the obligation of the state, assumed under the legal regulation laid down by the Government before the entry into force of the law, to include, in the length of service, the periods completed under employment contracts before the entry into force of the law while working as heads of professional fire protection units, firefighters, or firefighter drivers. In this way, the legislature ensured the legitimate expectations of the persons concerned.
The Constitutional Court drew attention to the fact that the state had no obligation to regard periods completed under employment contracts in professional fire protection units after the entry into force of the law as equivalent to the period of service. Therefore, persons thus employed did not acquire any legitimate expectations that the periods completed under employment contracts after the entry into force of the law would also be regarded as constituting periods of service.
The Constitutional Court pointed out that the differences in the legal status between officials who served in fire protection units and persons who worked there under employment contracts give grounds, in determining the period of service, for the different treatment of persons who, after 1 January 1995, were for a certain period of time employed in fire protection units under employment contracts (and were later appointed as fire protection officials) and persons who, during the corresponding period, served as fire protection officials. Therefore, neither was the impugned provision found to be in violation of the constitutional principle of the equality of the rights of persons.