FORMER SECOND SECTION
(Application no. 63566/00)
18 July 2006
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Pronina v. Ukraine,
The European Court of Human Rights (Second Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Mr J.-P. Costa, President,
Mr A.B. Baka,
Mr I. Cabral Barreto,
Mr R. Türmen,
Mr V. Butkevych,
Ms D. Jočienė,
Mr D. Popović, judges,
and Mrs S. Dollé, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 10 January and 27 July 2006,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that last mentioned date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW
1. Constitution of Ukraine of 1996
“... The norms of the Constitution of Ukraine are norms of direct effect. Appeals to the court in defence of the constitutional rights and freedoms of the individual and citizen directly on the grounds of the Constitution of Ukraine are guaranteed.”
“... Pensions and other types of social payments and assistance that are the principal sources of subsistence, shall ensure a standard of living not lower than the minimum living standard (прожитковий мінімум) established by law.”
“The Constitutional Court of Ukraine is the sole body of constitutional jurisdiction in Ukraine.
The Constitutional Court of Ukraine decides on issues of conformity of laws and other legal acts with the Constitution of Ukraine, and provides the official interpretation of the Constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine.”
“The jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine encompasses:
1) deciding on issues of conformity with the Constitution of Ukraine (the constitutionality) of the following:
- laws and other legal acts of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine;
- acts of the President of Ukraine;
- acts of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine;
- legal acts of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
These issues are considered on the appeals of: the President of Ukraine; at least forty-five National Deputies of Ukraine; the Supreme Court of Ukraine; the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea;
2) the official interpretation of the Constitution of Ukraine and the laws of Ukraine;
On issues envisaged by this Article, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine adopts decisions that are mandatory for execution throughout the territory of Ukraine, that are final and shall not be appealed.”
Article 202 of the Code foresaw that a court decision should mention the facts of the case established by the court, evidence on which the court’s conclusion was based, and reasons for admitting or rejecting this or that argument, as well as the laws applied by the court.
3. Law on the Constitutional Court of Ukraine of 16 October 1996
Article 83. Issues of constitutionality that arise in the proceedings before the courts of general jurisdiction
“When, in the proceedings before the courts of general jurisdiction, a dispute arises over the constitutionality of norms applied by a court, the examination of the case shall be suspended.
In such circumstances, constitutional proceedings shall be initiated and the case shall be considered by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine immediately.”
Article 94. Ground for a constitutional appeal
“The ground for a constitutional appeal in order to obtain an official interpretation of the Constitution of Ukraine and laws of Ukraine is a lack of uniform application of provisions of the Constitution or laws by the courts of Ukraine, or other organs of State authorities, if the subject of the right to a constitutional appeal considers that it may lead or has led to a violation of his or her constitutional rights and freedoms.”
4. Law of Ukraine on Pensions of 5 November 1991
16. Article 19 of this Law provides as relevant:
“Old age pensions shall be established in the amount of 55% of the salary, but not less then the minimum amount of pensions (мінімальний розмір пенсії)...
The minimum amount of an old age pension shall be established in relation to the minimum consumer budget (мінімальний споживчий бюджет). In case of economic crisis and a fall in production, the minimum amount of pensions shall be established in an amount which is not lower than the basic standard of income (межа малозабезпеченості). ...
The maximum amount of an old age pension shall not exceed ... three times the minimum amount of pensions ...”
5. Law of Ukraine on Establishing the Amount of the Basic Standard of Income and the Amount of the Minimum Wage for 1999 (25 December 1998)
6. Law of Ukraine on Increasing the Minimum Amount of Pensions (15 July 1997)
7. Resolution of the Plenary of the Supreme Court of Ukraine on the Application of the Constitution of Ukraine on the Administration of Justice (1 November 1996)
“2. Since the Constitution of Ukraine, as stipulated in its Article 8, has the highest legal force, and its norms are norms of direct effect, the courts, in consideration of concrete cases, shall assess the content of any law or any other legal act for its compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine and, where necessary, shall apply the Constitution as an act of direct effect. The court decisions shall be based on the Constitution and the current legislation which does not contradict it.
In case of doubt as to the compliance with the Constitution of Ukraine of a particular law, as applied or applicable in a case, the court, upon the motion of the parties to the proceedings or of its own motion, shall suspend consideration of the case and apply, by way of a reasoned decision (ruling), to the Supreme Court of Ukraine which, under Article 150 of the Constitution, may raise before the Constitutional Court the issue of compliance of laws and other legal acts with the Constitution. Such decisions can be taken by the first instance court, court of cassation or the court which considers a supervisory review...”
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal...”
24. The Court recalls that the Convention does not guarantee, as such, a right of access to a court with competence to invalidate or override a law, or to give an official interpretation of a law (see, mutatis mutandis, Gorizdra v. Moldova (dec.), no. 53180/99, 2 July 2002; and James and Others v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 21 February 1986, Series A no. 98, § 81). Neither does it guarantee any right to have a case referred by a domestic court to another national or international authority for a preliminary ruling (see Coëme and Others v. Belgium, nos. 32492/96, 32547/96, 32548/96, 33209/96 and 33210/96, § 114, ECHR 2000 VII). In the Ukrainian legal system, where a physical person has no right of individual petition to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, it is for the domestic courts to look into the issue of the compatibility of legal acts with the Constitution and, in case of doubt, to request that constitutional proceedings be initiated (see paragraphs 14 and 15 above). From the relevant legislation, however, this system could not be understood as requiring the ordinary courts to examine in detail any issue of constitutionality raised by a party to the civil proceedings, or obliging them to refer every such issue of constitutionality to the Constitutional Court. It appears that the courts of general jurisdiction exercise some discretion in dealing with issues of constitutionality which have been raised in the framework of civil proceedings. Therefore, the question whether a court has failed to provide reasons for its judgment in this respect can only be determined in the light of the circumstances of the case, as mentioned above.
There has accordingly been a breach of this provision.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 1,500 (one thousand five hundred euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage;
(b) that the above amount shall be converted into the national currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(c) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 18 July 2006, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
S. Dollé J.-P. Costa
1. Around EUR 15.
2. Around EUR 18.5.
3. Around EUR 3.9.