Constitution Court turns down reds' demand for clarification on ruling
The Constitution Court is in no way obliged to provide clarifications on its ruling on charter amendment, court president Wasan Soypisudh said yesterday.
Leaders of the red-shirt Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) yesterday filed a petition demanding that the Constitution Court provide answers to what it calls the "Bt1-billion questions" - two queries the group claims will cost the taxpayers Bt2 billion if a public referendum on charter amendment is held.
DAAD chief Thida Thavornseth led a group of red shirts and Pheu Thai Party MPs to hand in a letter asking the Constitution Court if holding a public referendum is mandatory before the Parliament votes on the third reading of the amendment or if it can proceed without a referendum.
Thida said her group wanted answers to two questions in relation to the court's ruling 18-22/2555 dated July 13, 2012, which said "a public referendum should be held to decide if a new charter is needed or not".
The questions are:
_ Is this ruling legally binding, and if so, which Articles of the Constitution is the ruling based upon, or is it just a suggestion?
_ Did the court issue a ruling against the third reading in Parliament, and if so, which Articles of the Constitution was this ruling based upon?
Thida said these answers were needed because different judges offered conflicting opinions. For instance, Constitution Court judge Chalermpol Ek-uru indicated that almost every Article in the charter could be amended with the exception of Article 291 (1) paragraph 2, while judge Nurak Mapraneet said the 2007 Constitution did not allow any amendments.
According to Thida, of the five Constitution Court judges, one said a public referendum should be held after the charter-amendment draft is completed, while four judges said the decision rested with the legislative branch and the judicial branch could not interfere.
"We believe the court should help the country find a way out of this political impasse. Judges should not pass this responsibility on to the public,'' she said.
Meanwhile, red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Promphan said the Office of the Constitution Court should review its announcement about the court not being obliged to answer questions.
"Each question costs Bt1 billion. If the court says we must hold a public referendum, the country will have to spend Bt2 billion, otherwise the charter can be amended by voting in the third reading for free and the Bt2 billion can be used for the country's development,'' he said.
In response, the court's president Wasan said that though the Constitution Court was not obliged to explain its ruling, the litigants had the right to file a petition according to the civil code.
"A judiciary committee will hold a meeting to look into the petition and see if those who question the ruling truly do not understand or pretend not to understand or are just pretending to be dumb,'' he said.
When asked if the red shirts just wanted an assurance from the court so that they could move forward with the amendment, Wasan said he did not know if it was a move forward or backward.
Asked if the court feared the amendment would result in the Constitution Court being dissolved and merely becoming a division under the Supreme Court, Wasan said it depends on whether the Supreme Court would accept it.
"It is good if we are merged into the Supreme Court, because then anybody who insults the court will go to jail," he said.