Demanding Annulment of Law Rendering Unemployed Car Owners and Users Ineligible for Income Support Payments.

HCJ 10662/04, Salah Hassan, et. al. v. The National Insurance Institute, et. al.

Petition filed to the Supreme Court in 11/04 in the name of Adalah and Sawt al-'Amel (the Laborer’s Voice), and on behalf of a secured income support recipient whose request to use a car was denied, against the National Insurance Institute (NII) and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. The petition demanded the cancellation of Article 9A(b) of the Income Support Law - 1980 and Article 10(c) of the Income Support Regulations - 1982, which prevent unemployed car owners and users from receiving secured income support allowances. The petitioners argued that: the language of the law is vague, failing to differentiate between individuals who own a car and those who merely use one; the law does not distinguish between different models of cars or their relative value; and fails to give any weight to personal circumstances, such as the need of a secured income support recipient for a car, the location of their home, or the level of public transport service in their area.

The petition emphasized that the NII rigorously enforces the law without discretion. "Economic police officers” employed by the Ministry of Finance follow income support recipients and photograph and file reports on them arriving at unemployment offices by car, and even take photographs of the cars parked next to their homes. The NII not only deprives individuals it believes own or are using a car of further benefits, but also debits previous allowances provided to them. In cases where individuals are unable to pay the fines imposed by the NII, the NII has deducted debts from child allowances and from future income support payments which may be reactivated following a minimum period of three months. Arab citizens of Israel constitute a significant portion of individuals entitled to these benefits, and many Arabs in Israel also live in remote villages with limited or no access to public transport services. The petitioners argued that the law violates the constitutional right to dignity, which includes the right to a minimum standard of living, as well as the constitutional right to property.

In 4/05, in response to the petition, the state maintained that, since the costs of running and maintaining a car are high, "the financing of these expenses must come from other, independent income, which the unemployed person did not report to the NII when it assessed his entitlement." The state further stated that, even when another person covers the costs of running and maintaining the car, the unemployed individual should be deprived of his or her entitlement to income support, since, "we should see this unemployed person as being given from the car owner an amount of money equal to the car's value and the value of using the car." The state claimed that, "Israeli law does not encourage a reality where the public kitty pays for the basic needs of a person, while others finance his other, non-essential requirements."

Adalah argues that the state's response is absurd, representing an attempt to shift the entire burden of responsibility for the financial care of the unemployed from the state to their families, and, like the articles challenged by the petition, is arbitrary in that it does not give any weight to an unemployed individual’s personal circumstances, which often necessitate the ownership or use of a car.

In 3/06, the Supreme Court issued an order impelling the NII and the state to show cause as to why the articles should not be cancelled.

Update: In 1/07, as a result of Adalah’s petition, an amendment was passed to the legislation, which allows car owners and users to receive income support payments, with certain conditions. In 3/07, the respondents filed a motion to the Court for the cancellation of the petition, claiming that it has become moot. Adalah is currently examining the new amendment.

H.C. 10662/04, Salah Hassan, et. al. v. The National Insurance Institute, et. al. (case pending).