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High Court overturns ´discriminatory´ law (JERUSALEM POST) By JOANNA PARASZCZUK 02/28/12)Source: http://www.jpost.com/NationalNews/Article.aspx?id=259706 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
In her final judgment before retiring in a special farewell ceremony in the court on Tuesday, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and the High Court of Justice overturned two articles of the Income Support Law, which prevent people who own a car from receiving income support.

In her final speech, Beinisch emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary and struggling for social issues. "The burden- bearing middle class feels a sense of deprivation that is liable to undermine the core of the system," Beinisch said.

Beinisch will be replaced by Justice Asher Dan Grunis, who is set to be sworn in on Tuesday. Grunis was selected for the role after the Knesset passed an amendment to the court’s law last month. Dubbed the “Grunis Bill,” it effectively paved the way for Grunis to replace Beinisch by lowering the minimum tenure for a Supreme Court president from three to two years.

The former retirement age for presidents as stipulated by law was 70, which ruled out Grunis, who will be just over 67 years old on the day Beinisch retires. The new amendment reduces the minimum term to two years, making Grunis eligible for the Supreme Court presidency.

As her retirement ceremony began following the announcement of her final ruling, Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich lauded the retiring Beinisch´s achievements, saying that her work had been "a rare combination of statism and protecting individual rights."

"The public is taking leave of an important leader, who was able to work, with determination and courage, in the face of pressure from government leaders," said Yacimovich.

The Labor Party chairwoman said that Beinisch had left a legacy of important legal rulings, including banning corporal punishment against children and overturning a law against the privatization of prisons.

The Income Support law in Beinisch´s final ruling stipulated that individuals and families not capable of ensuring a basic minimum subsistence income are eligible for income support payments, as long as they meet certain requirements.

However, the same law stated that “a vehicle owned or utilized by the insured person precludes entitlement to benefits,” a clause which both civil and women’s rights groups have vocally opposed, arguing that it harms weaker sections of the population.

Itach - Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Adalah, Sawt al- Amel (“Worker’s Voice”) and the Legal Aid Department of the Justice Ministry had all filed petitions against the National Insurance Institute (NII) and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor.

As is common practice for petitions on identical issues, the High Court decided to hear the petitions together and make a single ruling on all of them.

The petitions sought to abolish a law that unnecessarily harms one of the country’s weakest populations, Shemesh- Perlmutter said, adding that the call to overturn the clauses was part of the country’s continuing fight for social justice.

Adalah say in their petition that the law particularly discriminates against Arab communities, where there is a shortage of jobs and where public transport infrastructure is also lacking, making it difficult for people to travel without a car.

In its written response to the petition in December, the NII and the state attorney’s office argued that vehicle use per se does not necessarily preclude eligibility for income support, and noted that there are certain exceptions and that the law relates to permanent use of a car. The state said that use of a car involves both fixed expenses, like insurance, and personal expenses like gas that vary from person to person, meaning that the NII cannot make objective calculations about cost.

However, the petitioners argue that denying income support to weaker populations – in Itach’s case, single mothers – simply because they had the use of a car is “absurd.” (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 02/28/12)

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