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On returning a petition

 THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 DECISION

ON THE RETURNING OF THE PETITION OF THE VILNIUS REGIONAL ADMINISTRATIVE COURT, THE PETITIONER, REQUESTING AN INVESTIGATION INTO WHETHER PARAGRAPH 6 OF ARTICLE 36 OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA’S LAW ON STATE SOCIAL INSURANCE IS NOT IN CONFLICT WITH THE CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA

 14 January 2015, No. KT2-S2/2015
Vilnius

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, composed of the Justices of the Constitutional Court: Elvyra Baltutytė, Vytautas Greičius, Danutė Jočienė, Pranas Kuconis, Gediminas Mesonis, Vytas Milius, Egidijus Šileikis, Algirdas Taminskas, and Dainius Žalimas

The court reporter—Daiva Pitrėnaitė

The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, in its procedural sitting, considered the petition (No. 1B-59/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner.

The Constitutional Court

has established:

  1. The Constitutional Court has received the petition (No. B-59/2014) of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court requesting “an investigation into whether Paragraph 6 (17-10-2012, No. XI-2302, Official Gazette Valstybės žinios, 2012, No. 127-6391 (the law in its wording of 03-11-2012)) of Article 36 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on State Social Insurance, which provides that ‘[t]he directors and deputy directors of the territorial divisions of the SSIFB have the right to adopt, with no limitations on any time limit, decisions on the recovery of the amounts of the social insurance and other payments, the awarding and paying of which are entrusted to the said territorial divisions, which have been overpaid through the fault of the recipients of social insurance payments’, is not in conflict with Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law, social orientation, and responsible governance that are established in the Preamble to the Constitution”.
  2. The petitioner applied to the Constitutional Court regarding the compliance of the impugned legal regulation with the Constitution after suspending the consideration of an administrative case. When deciding, in the said case, on the decisions of the Vilnius Division of the State Social Insurance Fund Board (hereinafter also referred to as the SSIFB) regarding the legality of the overpayment of the state social insurance pension of widow(er)s, a question arose as to whether the SSIFB has the right to recover the overpayment of the widow(er)’s pension, which arises out of the fault of the applicant, 16 years after the original decision to award the said pension to her.

The Constitutional Court

holds that:

  1. The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requests an investigation into the compliance of Paragraph 6 of Article 36 of the Law on State Social Insurance (hereinafter also referred to as the Law) with the Constitution. Although, in its petition, the petitioner indicates that it impugns the compliance of Paragraph 6 (wordings of 17 October 2012 and 3 November 2012) of Article 36 of the Law with the Constitution, such wordings of the said provision do not exist. The annex—the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Amending and Supplementing Article 36 of the Law on State Social Insurance that was adopted by the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania on 22 December 2011—attached to the petition of the petitioner makes it clear that the petitioner actually requests an investigation into whether Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 of the Law is not in conflict with the Constitution.
  2. Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 “The Rights of the Establishments Administering the Fund” of the Law prescribes: “The directors and deputy directors of the territorial divisions of the Fund Board have the right to adopt, with no limitations on any time limit, decisions on the recovery of the amounts of the social insurance and other payments, the awarding and paying of which are entrusted to the said territorial divisions, which have been overpaid through the fault of the recipients of social insurance payments.”

Thus, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 of the Law, the heads of the territorial divisions of the SSIFB may adopt, for an undetermined period of time, i.e. irrespective of when the fact of such overpayment came to light, a decision to recover overpayments which arise out of the fault of the recipients of social insurance payments.

  1. Under Item 5 of Paragraph 2 of Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, a ruling of a court, by means of which an application is made to the Constitutional Court, must specify the legal arguments presenting the court’s opinion on the conflict of a law with the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that courts, when applying to the Constitutional Court with a petition requesting an investigation into whether a law or another legal act (part thereof) is not in conflict with the Constitution and presenting their arguments concerning their opinion (which is expressed in their petition) on the conflict of the law or another legal act (part thereof) with the Constitution, may not limit themselves only to general reasoning or statements and also to the fact that the law or another legal act (part thereof) is, in their opinion, in conflict with the Constitution, but must clearly indicate which impugned articles (paragraphs, items thereof) of legal acts and to what extent are, in their opinion, in conflict with the Constitution, and substantiate their position on the compliance of every impugned provision of the legal act (part thereof) with the Constitution by clearly formulated legal arguments (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 12 December 2005, its decisions of 14 October 2008, 10 November 2011, 2 September 2014, and 5 September 2014). Otherwise, the petition of a court requesting an investigation into the compliance of a law or another legal act (part thereof) with the Constitution should be considered not to comply with the requirements of Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 12 December 2005 and 16 January 2006, and its decisions of 5 July 2007, 14 October 2008, 16 November 2010, and 5 September 2014).

It should be noted that, if a petition requesting an investigation into the compliance of a legal act (part thereof) with the Constitution in view of the content of norms and/or the scope of regulation indicates neither any concrete articles (parts thereof) or items of the legal act, the compliance of which with the Constitution is doubted by the petitioner, nor any concrete provisions—norms and/or principles—of the Constitution, with which, in the opinion of the petitioner, the concretely indicated articles (parts thereof) or items of the impugned legal act are in conflict in view of the content of norms and/or the scope of regulation, nor the legal reasoning grounding the doubt of the petitioner concerning the compliance of each concretely indicated article (part thereof) or item of the impugned legal act (part thereof) with the concretely indicated provisions of the Constitution in view of the content of norms and/or the scope of regulation, and if such a petition were accepted at the Constitutional Court and a case were commenced subsequent to it, one would also restrict the rights of the party concerned, the state institution that has passed the impugned legal act, since it would be more difficult for the party concerned to present explanations concerning the arguments of the petitioner and to prepare for judicial consideration (inter alia, the Constitutional Court’s decisions of 16 April 2004, 19 March 2010, 12 December 2012, 8 January 2013, 28 August 2014, and 2 September 2014).

  1. According to the petitioner, under the impugned legal regulation, the institution that has passed a public administration act may, at any time, change or annul it itself does not ensure the stability and definiteness of legal relations, therefore, such a fact is in conflict with the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law, social orientation, and responsible governance. According to the petitioner, social maintenance has the status of a constitutional value and social protection measures help protect against possible social risk, however, the legal regulation established in Paragraph 6 of Article 36 of the Law gives rise to insecurity in the sphere of the regulation of social protection relations. In the petitioner’s view, the legislature, when establishing the impugned legal regulation, “had to be bound by the norms and principles of the Constitution, and also by the striving for an open, just, and harmonious civil society and a state under the rule of law that is consolidated in the Preamble thereto, among other things, by the principle of the social orientation of the state (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 5 March 2004) and the principle of responsible governance (the Constitutional Court’s ruling of 13 May 2004), which, among other things, ensures a sustainable social and economic development of the state and also means that there may be no instability and indefiniteness of legal relations in time, the legislature has not only the powers, but also the constitutional duty to establish such legal regulation that the principle of stability, equality of rights, proportionality, and legitimate expectations would be applied to the participants of a legal relation. Such regulation gives rise to unequal limits on the liability of a citizen and a servant of a state institution for the damage caused.”

The aforesaid statements of the petitioner do not substantiate the petitioner’s doubt about the compliance of Paragraph 6 of Article 36 of the Law with Article 52 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law, social orientation, and responsible governance, also, they are not sufficiently clear. The petitioner refers to certain Constitutional Court’s rulings on which it relies, however, they do not contain any such formulated provisions of the official constitutional doctrine and precisely any such a connection of its separate fragments, as the petitioner asserts in its reasoning.

In its petition, the petitioner also indicates that the Law is special, intended for the regulation of public relations of a specific type, therefore, the court may not, by analogy, apply the general principles of civil law, inter alia, reduce the amount to be awarded, taking account of the degree of the fault of the participants of a legal relation and the nature of actions. It should be noted that the petitioner formulates such a statement without disclosing any peculiarities of the legal relations linked to state social insurance pensions (the overpayment of the widow(er)’s pension in this case) and their interrelations with the other provisions of the said Law (inter alia, the ones set forth in Item 3 (wording of 20 December 2007) of Paragraph 4 of Article 36). The petition indicates that the Law fails to set the time limit on the recovery of damages which, under other laws, applies to the awarding of damages caused by the unlawful actions of state servants or officials. According to the petitioner, such legal regulation where the time limit on the recovery of damages is not set is faulty, creates the conditions for a public administration entity—state institutions—not to carry out a periodical control over their activities as established in the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on Public Administration. When underling, by the said statements and reasoning, the deficiencies in the impugned legal regulation and its incompatibility with other laws, i.e. also when raising the questions that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court, the petitioner does not substantiate, by means of legal arguments, its doubt about the compliance of Paragraph 6 of Article 36 of the Law with the Constitution.

  1. Thus, the petitioner has not presented any legal arguments substantiating its doubt about the compliance of Paragraph 6 of Article 36 of the Law with Article 52 of the Constitution and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law, social orientation, and responsible governance.
  2. In the light of the foregoing arguments, it should be held that the petition of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 of the Law on State Social Insurance is not in conflict with the Constitution, fails to comply with the requirement set forth in Item 5 of Paragraph 2 of Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court.

Under Article 70 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, in the case that a petition (part thereof) fails to comply with the requirements set forth in Article 67 of the Law on the Constitutional Court, the petition is returned to the petitioner. The returning of the petition does not take away the right to apply to the Constitutional Court according to the general procedure after the removal of the deficiencies thereof.

  1. In view of this fact, the conclusion should be drawn that there exist the grounds to return the petition to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 of the Law on State Social Insurance is not in conflict with the Constitution.

Conforming to Paragraphs 3 and 4 of Article 22, Article 28, and Article 70 of the Law on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania adopts the following

decision:

To return the petition (No. 1B-59/2014) to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, the petitioner, requesting an investigation into whether Paragraph 6 (wording of 22 December 2011) of Article 36 of the Republic of Lithuania’s Law on State Social Insurance is not in conflict with Article 52 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the constitutional principles of a state under the rule of law, social orientation, and responsible governance.

This decision of the Constitutional Court is final and not subject to appeal.

Justices of the Constitutional Court:                                    Elvyra Baltutytė

                                                                                                        Vytautas Greičius

                                                                                                        Danutė Jočienė

                                                                                                        Pranas Kuconis

                                                                                                        Gediminas Mesonis

                                                                                                        Vytas Milius

                                                                                                        Egidijus Šileikis

                                                                                                        Algirdas Taminskas

                                                                                                        Dainius Žalimas