Court puts charter changes on hold
The Constitution Court yesterday decided to accept for judicial review petitions by five separate groups of people seeking a ruling on whether the government-sponsored charter-amendment drafts are constitutional.The decision is likely to result in a postponement of the third and final reading of the amendments scheduled for next Tuesday(June 5). Pheu Thai MP Samart Kaewmeechai, who heads the vetting committee for the constitutional amendments, said after learning about the court decision that the joint session of the two Houses on Tuesday would instead deliberate other bills on that day.
Constitution Court spokesman Pimol Thammapitakpong said the court had informed the secretary-general of the House of Representatives about the decision, adding that it was up to the House whether to postpone the reading.
"According to the law, there is no penalty if Parliament continues with the third reading. However, such a move may be indicative of the actual intention on the part of the accused," he said.
When asked whether the court's quick decision to accept the petitions had anything to do with the increasingly tense political situation, Pimol said the judges resolved that the case required urgent attention to ease the situation.
Five groups of people, whose members include Senator Somjet Boonthanom, opposition Democrat MP Wirut Kalayasiri, lawyer Warin Thiemcharas and yellow-shirt leader Boworn Yasunthorn, had submitted five separate petitions to the Constitution Court. They accused the proponents of the three government-sponsored charter-amendment bills of attempting to overthrow the country's constitutional monarchy and seize political power through unconstitutional means.
The court scheduled July 5 and 6 to hear from the accusers and the accused in the first trial. It also asked the accused - the Cabinet, the Parliament, Pheu Thai, Chart Thai Pattana, and certain MPs from both parties - to submit their explanation in writing to the court within 15 days, according to the spokesman.
He explained that the court accepted the petitions for judicial review even though the accusers filed their petitions directly to the court, instead of through an independent organisation, as required by Article 212. The spokesman said that in this case, Article 68 was applied.
Article 68 states: "No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as head of the state or to acquire the power to rule the country by any means that is not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution. In the case where a person or a political party has committed the act under Paragraph 1, the person knowing of such act shall have the right to request the Prosecutor-General to investigate its facts and submit a motion to the Constitution Court for ordering cessation of such act."
The spokesman said the court would rule whether the constitutional amendments were against the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader Kokaew Pikulthong said yesterday that he believed the Constitution Court did not have the power to accept the petitions for judicial review, adding that the decision may have been the result of the influence of unnamed "elites".