January 09, 2014 00:00 By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK, CHANIKARN
Court says change in Article 190 will destroy checks and balances and increase power of the executive at the expense of parliament
THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT yesterday ruled that the passing of the bill to amend Article 190 of the charter is unconstitutional as it will destroy the checks and balance mechanism of Parliament, harm public interest, as well as unfairly strengthen the executive branch.
The court also said the deliberation process was hasty and cut short, making it unconstitutional.
Article 190 of the Constitution requires all treaties and contracts signed with other countries, which could have a serious socio-economic impact, to be approved by Parliament. The government has removed that clause to bypass the parliamentary process for such treaties.
“It is an attempt to reduce the power of Parliament and increase the power of the executive … with an important implication,” the court said in its ruling. It added that any attempt to hasten the signing of a treaty with other countries without proper scrutiny and checks and balances could cause irreversible damage to Thai society.
The court said the move violated articles 3, 68 and 125 of the charter and was tantamount to an attempt to overthrow the current political system.
“The actions affect the checks and balances mechanism and may lead to absolute power in dealing with the signing of treaty with other states… It may lead to ensuing problems that may not be redressed.”
The court made it clear that signing any treaty with a foreign state is a very important matter and Parliament as well as the public must have ample time to debate, scrutinise and oppose it if necessary.
The petition was filed by opposition Democrat MP Wiratana Kalaysasiri, who argued that Parliament’s passing of the bill last year contravened the charter.
Wiratana said he would gather the signatures of at least 20,000 eligible voters to ask the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NAAC) to impeach legislators who had tried to amend Article 190 of the Constitution. The amendment efforts, according to the majority vote of the Constitutional Court judges, are unconstitutional.
The court ruled on the case in response to Wiratana’s petition.
Yesterday’s ruling delivered another serious blow to the Yingluck government, which is already reeling under the ongoing political crises.
Earlier, the court had ruled the charter change on composition of the Senate as unconstitutional. The NACC later opened investigations to impeach lawmakers, who had backed the bill amendment, and decided to press charges against 310 lawmakers, including former Parliament president Somsak Kiatsuranont and Senate Speaker Nikom Wairatpanij.
Meanwhile, reacting to the anti-graft body’s decision to spare some lawmakers, including caretaker premier Yingluck Shina-watra, Green Group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila questioned the NACC’s logic.
“If the NACC would use the voting record as the criteria on whether to file charges, what principle did it use to say that the persons who proposed the law and voted in the first reading had an intention to do wrong while those who voted only in the third reading had no such intention and have protection?” he said.
He said it did not mean that the persons who voted only in the third reading had no ill intention, as they had to consider it thoroughly before finalising the passage of the law. He also referred to the Constitutional Court ruling, which said the charter amendment on the Senate’s composition was wrong both in the process and the content. Therefore, letting off the lawmakers who voted in the third reading might be a distortion of the court’s ruling.
Pheu Thai MPs have expressed their anger against the NACC over its decision to press charges against 310 lawmakers for their role in proposing and approving another charter amendment regarding the qualifications of future senatorial candidates.
Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the NACC unfairly prolonged many cases against Democrat Party members.