Charter court draws flak over rulings

national January 10, 2014 00:00

By Opas Boonlom
The Nation

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Amid confusion about its role, critics say it is interfering in lawmakers' work

The Constitutional Court found itself in hot water yesterday for striking down Parliament’s efforts to rework contentious chapters of the charter. 
The latest judgement on the amendment of Article 190 and the recent testimony on the Bt2-trillion loan bill evoked protests from the public notably through social media.
Politicians and activists always pick out certain words or parts of a decision for their political convenience. 
Members of the Pheu Thai Party have said they would not accept the Constitutional Court’s verdicts. Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban jumped to the conclusion that such a reaction meant that Yingluck Shinawatra’s government was unlawful and had no legitimacy to run the country anymore.
Some said the court’s rejection on Wednesday of the Article 190 amendment was an interference in the work of lawmakers. 
A lot of criticism is about the role of the court.
When Justice Suphot Khaimuk argued with Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt that Thailand was not ready for high-speed trains during the hearing on the Bt2-trillion infrastructure bill, it seemed the court was running the country rather than considering which laws are constitutional or not, as was its duty, they said. 
However, those who criticised the court might not really understand its role. By law, this court has to examine where any laws or acts by state agencies violate the constitution. 
Unlike the Courts of Justice, the Constitutional Court uses the inquisitorial system, so it can seek information and evidence to prove a case by itself. That might make the justices look like they are quarrelling with the parties.
Under the accusatorial system, a court will listen only to evidence presented from the parties to a case. 
Judges urged to remain neutral
Retired charter court justice Suchit Bunbongkarn said the judges could not express their personal opinions on the essential part of a case, which they have to rule on. However, a judge can use several techniques and tactics during hearings, he said. 
When a policy of the government is submitted to the court, the judges have the right to say whether such a policy is proper or not, he said. 
If a law is subjected to court review, the judges have the right to say whether it is unconstitutional or not, he said. 
Whether such an opinion is right or wrong, proper or improper is another matter, he added. 

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