The Principle of Equality enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution does not refer to a formal equality in an absolute or mechanical sense, but rather, a substantive equality that protects the legal position of the people. The legislative authority, based on the value system of the Constitution and legislative intent, exercises discretion and considers whether inherent differences in subject matter justify reasonable differences in treatment. Whether a particular law complies with the principle of equality should be determined by whether the intent of the differential treatment is constitutional, and whether there exists a certain level of connection between the legislative intent and the adopted method of classification (see J.Y. Interpretations Nos. 682, 694, 701, 719 and 722). The actions of State authorities in implementing public administration should also comply with the constitutional requirements listed above while engaging in private acts that are subject to private law (see J.Y. Interpretation No. 457). The legislative body has full legislative authority with regard to the sequence of priorities, legislative intent, scope of beneficiaries, form and amount of payment and other related regulations with respect to all types of social welfare benefits. The legislative body shall consider the need to protect and care for the people, the State’s financial status and other factors in enacting laws and making controlled allocation of social welfare resources (see J.Y. Interpretation No. 485). If the purpose behind the differential treatment in a social welfare benefit scheme is proper, and the method adopted has a reasonable connection with the purpose, then it is not in contravention of the principle of equality.
Article 22 of the Military Dependents’ Village Reconstruction Act enacted and published on February 5, 1996, states that: “Where more than three-quarters of the resident military householders in the military dependents’ villages to be reconstructed agree with the reconstruction, the competent authority shall be entitled to nullify the resident certificates and benefits of the householders who disagree with the reconstruction and recall their houses subject to compulsory execution upon the jurisdictional district court’s ruling.” (Three-quarters was amended to two-thirds, and the aforesaid paragraph moved as Paragraph 1, as amended and published on January 3, 2007; hereinafter referred to as the “Contested Provision”.) Resident military householders who disagree with reconstruction are subject to nullification of their resident certificates and related rights and interests, and are precluded from enjoying the rights and interests of those resident military householders who agree with reconstruction as set out under Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Military Dependents’ Village Reconstruction Act, such as, the right to purchase residence units built pursuant to the Act and to receive a government subsidy for the purchase. As a result, this creates differential treatment between resident military householders who agree with reconstruction and those who do not.
The provision of living quarters in military dependents’ villages for soldiers is a social service in the nature of a loan relationship (see J.Y. Interpretation No. 457), the termination of which does not require the consent of the resident military householder. The legislative purpose of the Contested Provision is based on the special circumstances surrounding the deteriorating state of the villages of old military dependents. In order to discourage resident military householders from waiting passively, which interferes with the overall progress of the reconstruction of military dependents’ villages and leads to increased reconstruction costs, a threshold of agreement and a method of differential treatment is provided, marked by nullification of the resident certificates and related rights and interests of those who disagree with the reconstruction. This encourages resident military householders to persuade each other to quickly come to consensus, and vacate the premises within the specified time limit. This allows for the most cost-effective use of the land and protects the interest of the general public. All resident military householders have the same opportunity to agree to the reconstruction and acquire the related rights and interests, and they know clearly that they will not have access to those rights and interests if they disagree with the reconstruction. The purpose of the differential treatment in the Contested Provision is proper, and the method adopted for differential treatment has a reasonable connection with the aforementioned legislative purpose, therefore it is not in contravention with the principle of equality enshrined in Article 7 of the Constitution.
Resident military householders who agree with the reconstruction of the villages of old military dependents not only have the right to purchase residence units built, and to receive a government subsidy for the purchase pursuant to Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Military Dependents’ Village Reconstruction Act, but also a subsidy for moving expenses and reimbursement of demolition costs pursuant to Article 13, Paragraph 2 and Article 14 of the Enforcement Rules of the Act respectively. Resident military householders who disagree with the reconstruction of old military dependents’ villages not only lose their aforementioned rights to purchase residence units and to receive a purchase subsidy, they also lose access to a subsidy for the expenses of moving house and reimbursement of demolition costs. In addition, householders occupying their properties illegally who move out within the time limit stipulated in Article 23 of the Military Dependents’ Village Reconstruction Act are entitled to receive reimbursement for demolition costs; however, resident military householders who disagree with reconstruction are not entitled to anything. Furthermore, the Act is silent on how to deal with the few resident military householders who disagree with reconstruction because they lack the financial means to provide their own payment for the subsequent purchase of a residence unit. This is sufficient to show that the Military Dependents’ Villages Reconstruction Act has not yet been fully considered in the light of the various issues that could arise from disagreement with reconstruction. The competing legal interests have not yet reached an acceptable balance; therefore, the relevant competent authorities should complete a thorough review and make improvements as soon as possible.
Petitioner No. 1 listed in the Appendix points out that the nullification portion of the Contested Provision in the Military Dependents’ Villages Reconstruction Act does not have a specified period of limitation. The petitioner questions its constitutionality and petitions for constitutional interpretation. However, it cannot be said that concrete reasons were provided to support an objective belief that the law is unconstitutional, therefore the petition is not in compliance with the requirements specified in J.Y. Interpretations Nos. 371, 572 and 590 for constitutional interpretation and shall be dismissed. Petitioner No. 2 listed in the Appendix asserts that the Contested Provision adopted in the Highest Administrative Court Judgment (2010) Pan-Zi No. 391 is unconstitutional and petitions for constitutional interpretation. However, because the petitioner is not the appellant in the aforementioned judgment, this petition is not in compliance with Article 5, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 2 of the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act, and shall be dismissed. In addition, Petitioner No. 3 listed in the Appendix asserts that Point 6.4 of the Principles in Dealing with Inability to Complete Transaction after Reconstruction of Old Military Dependents’ Villages (as amended and published on May 30, 2008), and Point 5.3 of the Special Instructions in Dealing with Reconstruction of Old Military Dependents’ Villages (as amended and published on June 17, 2008) are unconstitutional and petitions for constitutional interpretation. However, the petitioner did not provide an adequate explanation as to how exactly the rules are objectively in contravention of the Constitution, and how the petitioners’ constitutional rights have been violated as a consequence. The petition is not in compliance with Article 5, Paragraph 1, Subparagraph 2 of the Constitutional Interpretations Procedure Act, and shall be hence dismissed pursuant to Paragraph 3 of the same Article 5 thereof.
＊ Translated by Eleanor Yu-Ying CHIN.