Press release after the hearing concerning the adjustment of amounts of old-age benefits for uniformed services SK 29/12
The challenged provision on the adjustment of amounts of old-age benefits for uniformed services, insofar as it is applicable to old-age pensions granted before 1 January 1999, is consistent with the Constitution.
At the hearing on 17 December 2013 at 9 a.m., the Constitutional Tribunal considered a constitutional complaint, submitted by Z. B., which concerned the adjustment of amounts of old-age benefits for uniformed services.
The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 6 of the Act of 18 February 1994 on Old-Age Pensions of Functionaries of the Police, the Internal Security Agency, the Foreign Intelligence Agency, the Military Counter-Intelligence Service, the Military Intelligence Service, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Border Guard, the Government Protection Bureau, the State Fire Service and the Penitentiary Service as well as Their Families, as amended by Article 160(1) of the Act of 17 December 1998 on Old-Age and Disability Pensions from the Social Insurance Fund, insofar as it was applicable to old-age pensions granted before 1 January 1999, was consistent with Article 67(1) in conjunction with Article 32(1) of the Constitution as well as was not inconsistent with Article 64(1) and (2) of the Constitution.
As to the remainder, the Tribunal discontinued the proceedings on the grounds that issuing a judgment was inadmissible.
The case concerned the constitutionality of rules adjusting the amounts of old-age benefits for uniformed services which had been introduced on 1 January 1999 by the Act on pensions from the Social Insurance Fund, which had amended Article 6 of the Act on Old-Age Pensions of Functionaries, by assigning the wording that was challenged in the constitutional complaint under examination. As a result of the entry into force of the above-mentioned amending Act, the adjustment of old-age benefits based on the Average Earnings Index, which had previously been binding under the old-age system for uniformed services, was replaced by the adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index, which was also binding under the general old-age pension system.
The Constitutional Tribunal disagreed with the allegation put forward by the complainant that the new method of adjusting old-age pensions inappropriately implemented the right to adjustment of the amounts of benefits, arising from Article 67(1) of the Constitution. As a result of amending challenged Article 6 of the Act on Old-Age Pensions of Functionaries, the right to the adjustment of amounts of benefits had not been revoked, but only the method of adjusting the amounts of benefits had been changed. The said change was related to an extensive and thorough reform of the old-age and disability pension system, and the modification of the rights previously granted to the functionaries of uniformed services had been justified by the internal cohesion and fairness of the new system.
The Tribunal pointed out that it had no jurisdiction to evaluate whether the adopted legal solution was optimal. However, it emphasised that although, in principle, the adjustment of old-age benefits based on the Consumer Price Index was less beneficial for old-age pensioners than the adjustment based on the Average Earnings Index, it still guaranteed that the real value of old-age pensions would be preserved. At the same time, the Tribunal indicated that the change in the old-age pension system for the functionaries of the police (assigning the functionaries to the universal old-age pension system in 1999, and then the return to the provision system in 2003) did not affect the obligation to re-introduce the adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index. Indeed, the Constitution did not provide for a correlation between a specific old-age pension system and a particular method of adjustment.
Nor did the Tribunal state that there had been an infringement of the principle of equality. Introduced by the challenged provision, the method of adjustment concerned all functionaries receiving old-age pensions from the old-age pension security system for the police. All old-age pensions for police retirees were adjusted in accordance with the same method, as of the moment of entry into force of the challenged provision, regardless of the date when a given functionary had been granted the benefit. Thus, no differentiation based on the date of attaining retirement age had been introduced into the legal situation of that group of old-age pensioners.
By contrast, Article 64(1) and Article 64(2) of the Constitution were ruled to be inadequate higher-level norms for the review. As the Tribunal stressed, the right to the adjustment of amounts of old-age benefits constituted one of the vital elements of the constitutional right to social security, enshrined in Article 67(1) of the Constitution. However, the said right did not arise from a regulation concerning the protection of ownership as well as other property rights.
The hearing was presided over by Judge Zbigniew Cieślak, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Maria Gintowt-Jankowicz.
The judgment is final and its operative part shall be published in the Journal of Laws.