Current Affairs

Výpis aktualit

People who Actually Reside in one of the Affected Municipalities will be able to Claim One-off Compensation for the Explosion at the Ammunition Depots Vlachovice-Vrbětice Site

The Plenum of the Constitutional Court (Justice-Rapporteur Radovan Suchánek) upheld the proposal of a group of 19 senators of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic (hereinafter referred to as the petitioner) and repealed the provisions of s. 3(3)(a) regarding the words "registered for permanent residence", s. 3(3)(b), s. 6(1) regarding the words "of permanent" and "with permanent", s. 6(2) regarding the words "of permanent", s. 6(3) regarding the words "of permanent", s. 6(4) regarding the words "with permanent" and s. 6(5) of the Act No. 324/2021 Coll., on the Lump Sum Compensation of Subjects Affected by the Extraordinary Event in the Ammunition Depots Vlachovice-Vrbětice and on the amendment to certain other Acts of the Parliament.

The essence of the petitioner's argument is a challenge to the constitutionality of the definition of the natural persons entitled to compensation in connection with the extraordinary incident at the Vlachovice-Vrbětice ammunition depot. Only those natural persons who - during the relevant period - met the legal definition of an 'eligible natural person' as defined in section 3(3) of the Act may obtain compensation. The Lump Sum Compensation Act is drafted in such a way that the decisive criterion for granting the status of an eligible natural person is solely permanent residence in the municipality and, in the case of foreigners, a permanent residence permit in one of the municipalities concerned. The petitioner submits that the requirement of permanent residence in one of the municipalities in question constitutes direct discrimination, in particular against persons who have actually lived in the municipality for a long time but who, for various reasons, have not registered their permanent residence there. According to the applicant, the unfairness of the permanent residency criterion - which has an impact on the constitutionality of the provisions in question - is compounded by the fact that no legal provision imposes an obligation on persons to register with authorities the specific places where they reside. The petitioner is of the opinion that preference should be given to the criterion of actual residence in relation to both Czech citizens and foreign nationals.

The petitioner asked for priority review of its application on the grounds of urgency, since the Lump Sum Compensation Act provides in its section 7 that a claim for compensation must be filed no later than June 30, 2022, otherwise it ceases to exist. The Constitutional Court in fact complied with this request by deciding on the application to repeal the contested provisions of the Act without delay after the statutory periods of time under section 69 of the Act on the Constitutional Court (which it had to grant to the other parties to the proceedings, i.e. to the Government and to the Ombudsman respectively) had expired, i.e. after having received the Ombudsman's observations on the application. On grounds of urgency, the Constitutional Court also exceptionally granted the enforceability of its opinion on the day of its promulgation and not as of the date of its publication in the Collection of Laws. 

The Constitutional Court concluded that the application was well founded. If the State decides on lump-sum compensation on the basis of a special Act of the Parliament, all persons affected by the event in which damages arose (beneficiaries) must enjoy the same - non-discriminatory - conditions for obtaining compensation in accordance with the constitutional principle of equality and non-discrimination under Article 1, first sentence, and Article 3(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

For the purposes of the Act No. 324/2001 Coll., on the Lump Sum Compensation of Subjects Affected by the Extraordinary Event in the Ammunition Depots Vlachovice-Vrbětice and on the amendment to certain other Acts of the Parliament, the relevant and constitutionally compliant criterion is the actual residence at which the compensated restrictions and interventions (as a result of the extraordinary event) are actually manifested for the affected person and it is obvious that the registration (permanent) residence does not meet this criterion, contrary to the purpose of the said statute.

The Constitutional Court notes, and it is also clear from the comments of the Senate in particular, that the legislator was aware of some of the above-mentioned shortcomings of the contested legislation. In simple terms, however, the legislator preferred the method of 'as fast as possible' and 'something is better than nothing'. Even these facts cannot excuse the constitutional shortcomings of the contested legislation.

For the sake of completeness, the Constitutional Court adds that this opinion in no way affects persons who - on the basis of the repealed provisions - have already been granted (or even paid) the right to lump-sum compensation by an administrative decision based solely on the criterion of permanent residence as part of their registration data.