FOURTH SECTION

DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 69533/01 
by Nadezhda Korneyevna KONDRASHINA 
against Russia

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 11 October 2005 as a Chamber composed of:

Sir Nicolas Bratza, President
 Mr G. Bonello
 Mr K. Traja
 Mr A. Kovler
 Mr S. Pavlovschi
 Mr L. Garlicki, 
 Ms L. Mijović, judges
and Mr M. O’Boyle, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 3 March 2001,

Having regard to the observations submitted by the respondent Government and the observations in reply submitted by the applicant,

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Ms Nadezhda Korneyevna Kondrashina, is a Russian national, who was born in 1934 and lives in Belgorod. She is represented before the Court by Mr V. Androsov, a lawyer practising in Belgorod. The respondent Government are represented by Mr P. Laptev, the representative of the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

A.  The circumstances of the case

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

The applicant received an old-age pension. From February 1998, her pension was to be calculated under the Law on Calculating and Upgrading State Pensions. The law introduced a new method for calculating pensions. This method, “a pensioner’s individual multiplier” was meant to link the pensioner’s pension to his or her work-life earnings.

The authority in charge of the applicant’s pension, the Pension Fund Agency of Belgorod, fixed the applicant’s multiplier at 0.525. The applicant considered that the agency had misread the law, and that her multiplier should be higher. On 5 May 1999, she challenged the agency’s decision in a court.

The case came before the Sverdlovskiy District Court of Belgorod. On 1 July 1999, the court held for the applicant. It found that the agency had misread the law, and that the multiplier should be 0.7.

The agency appealed against the judgment, but on 19 October 1999 the Belgorod Regional Court upheld the judgment on appeal, and the judgment came into force.

On 12 January 2000, a Deputy Prime Minister wrote a letter to the Prosecutor General. She complained that throughout the country courts had been deciding in pensioners’ favour based on a manifestly wrong interpretation of the Pensions Law, and that the Pension Fund was unable to meet the unforeseen expenses. She asked the Prosecutor General to ask the Supreme Court to reconsider one such judgment to create a pilot case.

On 25 May 2000, the agency asked the district court to reopen the applicant’s judgment due to discovery of new circumstances. The agency asserted that on 29 December 1999 the Ministry of Labour and Social Development had passed an Instruction on the Application of Limitations Established by the Law on Calculating and Upgrading State Pensions. The instruction clarified how to apply the law. The agency argued that it had not known about the instruction until after the litigation, and that the case should therefore be reconsidered.

On 14 September 2000, the district court granted the agency’s request and reopened the judgment under Article 333 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Having reconsidered the case, on 14 September 2000 the district court held against the applicant. On 31 October 2000, the regional court upheld this judgment on appeal.

B.  Relevant domestic law

The Code of Civil Procedure of 1964 read:

Article 333. Grounds for reopening

“[Judgments] entered into force may be reopened due to newly discovered circumstances [if]:

1.  there are circumstances which were not and could not have been known to the applicant;

2.  a criminal court ... finds that a witness or an expert perjured himself, that the translation was incorrect, or that the [evidence] was forged...;

3.  a criminal court convicts the parties, their representatives, or judges for crimes committed in the course of the trial;

4.  a [judgment] that supported the [judgment to be reconsidered] is quashed.

The judgment of the Constitutional Court of 14 January 1999 read:

“If a law is found unconstitutional, judgments may be reconsidered ... both in supervisory-review proceedings and due to newly discovered circumstances.”

COMPLAINTS

1.  The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the judgment should not have been reopened because the instruction had not been a newly discovered circumstance.

2.  The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the proceedings had lasted too long.

3.  The applicant complained under Article 2 of the Convention that her pension had been too small to live on.

THE LAW

1.  The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the State had reconsidered a favourable final judgment. The Court will consider this complaint under Articles 6 § 1 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (see Pravednaya v. Russia, no. 69529/01, §§ 19, 35, 18 November 2004).

Article 6 § 1, as far as relevant, reads as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair ... hearing ... by [a] ... tribunal....”

Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 reads as follows:

“Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest or to secure the payment of taxes or other contributions or penalties.”

The Government argued that this complaint should be rejected as manifestly ill-founded for the following reasons. First, the district court reopened the case not for capricious reasons, but because of the instruction – an important clarification of the pensions law. Second, since the agency had learned about the instruction only after the litigation, the court had good reason to reopen the case. Third, the Constitutional Court recognised that changes in the law could be considered as newly discovered circumstances.

The applicant insisted on her complaint for the following reasons. First, the instruction was subordinate to the pensions law and ought not to distort the law’s meaning. Second, the executive disliked the law and wished to cancel it by any means. Third, the agency missed the time-limit for the reopening: it applied to the court six months after it had learned about the instruction, instead of three months as required by the civil procedure.

The Court considers, in the light of the parties’ submissions, that the complaint raises serious issues of fact and law under the Convention, the determination of which requires an examination of the merits. The Court concludes therefore that this complaint is not manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 35 § 3 of the Convention. No other ground for declaring it inadmissible has been established.

2.  The applicant complained under Article 6 of the Convention that the proceedings had lasted too long. Article 6, as far as relevant, reads as follows:

“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a ... hearing within a reasonable time by [a] ... tribunal....”

The proceedings lasted 7 months: from 5 May to 19 October 1999, and from 14 September to 31 October 2000. The Court considers that this period is too short to be “unreasonable”.

It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

3.  The applicant complained under Article 2 of the Convention that her pension had been too small to live on. Article 2, as far as relevant, reads as follows:

“Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law....”

The Court does not, however, have any evidence that the applicant’s life was in danger.

It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares admissible, without prejudging the merits, the applicant’s complaint that the final judgment in her favour was reconsidered;

Declares the remainder of the application inadmissible.

Michael O’Boyle Nicolas Bratza 
 Registrar President

KONDRASHINA v. RUSSIA DECISION


KONDRASHINA v. RUSSIA DECISION