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Charter drafting committee lobs ball in NLA court over NACC graft-buster bill

Breaking News January 14, 2018 07:00

By KAS CHANWANPEN
THE SUNDAY NATION

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THE LAW DRAFTERS will leave it to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to decide whether or not to take the issue of the issue of the graft-buster bill to the Constitutional Court.



Despite the Constitution Drafting Commission’s strong censure of the bill revised by the NLA, it would not call for a joint vetting committee to be set up to revisit the bill before it came into effect.

A source close to the CDC said that the charter writers made the decision as they thought the NLA must learn to clean up its own mess after having amended the law allowing the current National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) members to maintain their position regardless of their qualifications.

NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcolchai admitted Friday that the CDC had submitted a letter regarding the issue to him, expressing concern that the NACC bill exempting some members from complying with the Constitution might be against the Supreme Law.

Pornpetch said CDC chairman Meechai Ruchupan had recommended that the NLA seek the opinion of the Constitutional Court and that the CDC would refrain from calling for the setting up of a joint law-review committee.

The development came after the NLA had passed the bill governing the NACC late last month. The bill was passed in spite of much controversy, especially about the incumbent commissioners.

Some critics viewed it as discrimination. Members of some independent agencies such as the Election Commission (EC) were dismissed while the nine NACC commissioners could keep their positions. The NACC was already in hot water as the public was keeping an eye on its work over the scandal involving the luxurious timepieces of junta leader General Prawit Wongsuwan.

Some critics said it was not beyond expectation that the NACC would not be dismissed, considering NACC president Pol General Watcharaphol Prasarnratchakit had close connections with Prawit. The graft-buster in 2014 was a deputy secretary-general of the prime minister, de facto serving Prawit who has been a deputy prime minister.

The source close to the CDC also said the charter writers did not want to petition the Constitutional Court because it did not want the Court to be caught in a predicament.

If the Court ruled that maintaining the current NACC members was unconstitutional, it could lead the public to question whether the same standards should be applied to the Court, too, the source said, explaining that earlier the Constitutional Court judges had been spared dismissal.

And even if the Court ruled that the NACC incumbency was constitutional, still questions could arise if the verdict was because the Court was trying to save itself, justifying its questionable incumbency, the source said. The CDC did not want to be the person who did that to the Court, he added.

Aside from that, sparing the NACC could lead to more trouble in the future, he explained. Individuals defending themselves in the NACC could conveniently raise the issue of their constitutionality and reject their conclusions in corruption cases, he added.

They could even take the matter to the Constitutional Court, he said.

This would again place the Court in a dilemma and challenge even the credibility of the Constitutional Court, especially as some critics already considered it to be politically tainted, he said.

However, the source remained uncertain whether the NLA would seek the Court decision over the incumbency of the NACC, although the Assembly had once done it when that of the Ombudsman was involved in a similar debate.

On a conspiracy theory note, he said the petition that time could have been part of the plan all along. The Court ruling that the Ombudsman continuing his term was not unconstitutional could have been planned just to be a basis for other commissioners, including the NACC and the Constitutional Court itself, to follow, he said.

This time, if the NLA was to do it, it must be a genuine act because there were no other possible motives – unlike with the Ombudsman bill, the source said, reiterating he was not sure how they would move.

 

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