PPA must compensate same-sex couple €500 for interference in family life

The present-day Supreme Court of Estonia building in Tartu.
The present-day Supreme Court of Estonia building in Tartu. Source: Supreme Court of Estonia

The Supreme Court of Estonia ordered the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) to pay €500 in compensation for non-proprietary damage due to not reviewing the application for a residence permit of an Estonian citizen's registered partner of the same sex.

The PPA based its decision not to grant a residence permit on the Aliens Act, which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year which declared the PPA's decision a violation of the couple's privacy. According to the State Liability Act, the state must now compensate the couple for non-proprietary damage.

In the court case, the applicant found they had suffered non-patrimonial damage because the Aliens Act does not provide a legal basis for granting a residence permit to a registered partner of the same sex to settle in Estonia. Therefore, in 2016, the Police and Border Guard Board rejected their application for a residence permit. By a decision made on June 21, 2019 by the Supreme Court en banc declared the Aliens Act unconstitutional and invalid in the part on which the PPA relied on to make the decision.

In their appeal in cassation, the applicant requested the Republic of Estonia order compensation for non-patrimonial damage in the amount of €10,000 or fair compensation at the discretion of the court.

The Supreme Court satisfied the claim for non-patrimonial damage and ordered the PAA to pay compensation for non-patrimonial damage tp the amount of €500.

According to the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court, the main legal issue, in this case, was whether the legislator or the PPA as an institution implementing the law should be considered to have caused the damage.

In the present case, the applicant had not suffered non-patrimonial damage prior to the PPA's decision and the applicant's claim for compensation for the damage caused by the legislator's inaction was rejected. Although the unconstitutional situation caused some uncertainty for the applicant, any legal ambiguity could not be compensated for non-patrimonial damage.

However, the applicant suffered non-patrimonial damage as a result of the PPA's decision.

The Police and Border Guard Board made a specific decision against the applicant, which excluded them from being granted a temporary residence permit and their right to live with a registered partner in Estonia. In so doing, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) violated the inviolability of the applicant's private life.

According to the State Liability Act, a person may demand compensation for non-patrimonial damage in the event of a violation of the inviolability of private life. It is believed that being denied the right to live with a partner causes significant mental suffering.

Although the PPA relied on a provision of the law that precluded the granting of a permit, the Supreme Court declared this provision unconstitutional and invalid, which is why the authority's decision was unlawful.

According to the Constitution, state power may be exercised only on the basis of laws which are in conformity with the Constitution. Thus, an unconstitutional law does not exclude or limit the responsibility of the state for interfering in the rights of a person.

In awarding the compensation, the Supreme Court took into account the fact that the applicant had the right to stay in Estonia during the court proceedings on the basis of a visa and a temporary residence permit issued by way of interim injunction. This alleviated the applicant's situation but did not eliminate the effects of the PPA's decision as a whole.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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