Outgoing court president was bold and controversial

national July 18, 2013 00:00

By Opas Boonlom

The Nation

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Wasan leaves his mark in a short time

The career of Constitutional Court president Wasan Soypisudh, who has resigned before completing his nine-year term, was at times colourful, courageous and controversial.

Wasan, who tendered his resignation from the positions of both president and judge of the court effective from August 1, said he had promised his colleagues he would not stay beyond two years, and that his mission was accomplished.

Wasan, 66, was a brilliant law student at Thammasat University and graduated at the age of 20 with honours and passed the bar exam before turning 21. He then embarked on his career in the judiciary, holding numerous positions, including president of the Supreme Court’s labour division, from which he retired at the age of 60.

During the 1991-1992 "judicial crisis", Wasan was a vocal assistant judge who joined the protest against perceived political interference in the appointment of judges, which led to his being reassigned. He became even more widely known in 2006 when he applied to become a member of the Election Commission but failed.

Wasan was later appointed as a Constitutional Court judge in May 2008. In August 24, 2011, he was unanimously appointed president of the court. He could have stayed on until 2017 for his term to be completed.

Opponents may regard Wasan as being pro-Democrat Party. When he had newly graduated, a senior person took him to see the former PM and ex-Democrat Party boss Seni Pramoj, and he became an intern at Seni’s law firm.

As a Supreme Court judge, Wasan was the presiding judge who handed down a two-year imprisonment term on former PM Thaksin Shinawatra for assisting his wife in the Ratchada land purchase deal.

More recently, he was among the Constitutional Court judges who examined a petition as to whether the House of Representatives could rewrite the 2007 charter without a referendum. The answer was no, leading to a deadlock, as a result MPs could not proceed with the third reading. The judges, including Wasan, concluded that such a move would violate Article 68 that forbids any action likely to overthrow the governing system.

Opponents criticised the judges for not waiting for the Office of the Attorney-General to forward the matter to the court. In reply, Wasan said: "Regarding a matter of grave importance such as the changing of the political system, can we really wait for the Office of the Attorney-General?"

Another important decision, in which he played a role, was the termination of the MP status of red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Promphan who could not vote in the 2011 general election as he was detained.

Court spokesman Pimol Tham-pitakpong said yesterday that since taking up the position on April 24, 2011, Wasan has revamped the Constitutional Court’s administration system. He has also pushed to improve the court’s performance, stressing that cases must be completed within one year.

In early 2012, the court had 123 unfinished cases and has now finished 109 of those, he said, adding that it was currently dealing with 30 cases.

Wasan’s resignation will not affect the composition of the court as there are still eight judges left and future rulings will likely remain the same.

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