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On the period of service for granting a state pension of officials and servicemen

The ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 25 January 2017

ON THE PERIOD OF SERVICE FOR GRANTING A STATE PENSION OF OFFICIALS AND SERVICEMEN

Summary

By this ruling, adopted in a case initiated by the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court declared Item 3 of Paragraph 3 (wordings of 18 January 2007 and 2 October 2012) of Article 16 of the Law on the State Pensions of Officials and Servicemen, prescribing that the periods of employment completed until 1 January 1995 (until the entry into force of this law) under employment contracts in the capacity of heads, firefighters, or firefighter drivers of professional fire protection units are regarded as the periods of service taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen if such persons were later appointed as paramilitary fire protection officials to be (to have been) constitutional, insofar as, under this legal regulation, the periods of the indicated employment completed after 1 January 1995 under employment contracts are not regarded as periods of service to be taken into account for the purpose of granting this pension.

The Constitutional Court recalled the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine that, under the Constitution (Article 52 thereof), 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; after such a state pension is established in a law, the granting and receipt of this pension must specifically be related to the service performed by a person to the State of Lithuania. The peculiarities of state pensions permit the legislature, taking account of all significant circumstances and having regard to the norms and principles of the Constitution, to establish particular conditions for granting these pensions; in determining the period of service necessary in order to be granted this pension, certain other periods in connection with service may also be considered equivalent to the period of service; in regulating the state pensions of officials and servicemen by means of laws, regard must be paid to the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law and the equality of the rights of persons.

The Constitutional Court noted that, under the Constitution (Article 52 thereof), the legislature is not obliged to regard periods completed under employment contracts as equivalent to the period of service required for granting a state pension of officials and servicemen, unless such an obligation stems from the Constitution, inter alia, the constitutional imperative to ensure the protection of the legitimate expectations of persons arising from the obligations undertaken by the state.

While assessing the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution, the Constitutional Court held that, in determining the period of service to be taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen, the legislature followed 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.

As noted in the ruling, the impugned provision of the law 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; according to this exception, the periods of employment completed under employment contracts before the entry into force of the law while working as heads, firefighters, or firefighter drivers of professional fire protection units are regarded as the period of service if such persons were later appointed as paramilitary fire protection officials. The Constitutional Court held that, having exercised its discretion to regard certain other periods in connection with service as equivalent to the period of service, the legislature, by means of this exception, implemented 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 the periods of the specified employment completed under employment contracts before the entry into force of the law in the length of service qualifying for granting a pension for service, and ensured the legitimate expectations of the persons concerned.

In the ruling, it was held 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 establishing this pension, i.e. after 1 January 1995, as equivalent to the period of service taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen. Therefore, persons thus employed could 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 the periods of service.

The Constitutional Court also held that, in determining the period of service taken into account for the purpose of granting a state pension of officials and servicemen, the differences in the legal status between officials who served in fire protection units and persons who worked there under employment contracts give objective grounds for the different treatment of persons who were, for a certain period of time, employed in fire protection units under employment contracts after 1 January 1995 (and were later appointed as fire protection officials) and persons who, during the corresponding period, served as fire protection officials.

Thus, according to the Constitutional Court, there was no ground for stating that the impugned legal regulation was not compliant with the requirements stemming from the Constitution, inter alia, Article 52 thereof, to have regard to the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law in establishing a legal regulation governing the state pensions of officials and servicemen, or with the principle of the equality of the rights of persons, which is consolidated in Article 29 of the Constitution.