The Constitution Court judges ruled yesterday that Prime Minister's Office Minister Varathep Rattanakorn is qualified to hold his seat in the cabinet.
Varathep: Never went behind bars
The judges decided by six to three that Mr Varathep is still eligible for a ministerial portfolio, despite receiving a suspended prison sentence, because he has never actually served time behind bars.
Mr Varathep was sentenced to two years in jail, suspended for two years, by the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions three years ago.
He was found guilty of malfeasance over the introduction of the two- and three-digit lottery while serving as a deputy finance minister in the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.
A group of 24 senators requested a ruling on whether Mr Varathep is constitutionally fit to assume the post of PM's Office minister.
They argued that the appointment of Mr Varathep might violate Section 174 of the constitution.
The section states that anyone who was released from jail less than five years ago may not be appointed as a minister.
The senators made the request to the Constitution Court through Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich.
Mr Varathep did not show up at court, saying he had to receive the South Korean ambassador. He assigned Suchart Traisaengrujira to go to court on his behalf.
Speaking after the court issued the ruling, Mr Varathep said he was confident that he was qualified for the ministerial post. He praised the charter court judges for strictly adhering to the rule of law and said their verdict will set a precedent for the future.
He added the charter court's ruling indicated that there were no vested interests or graft involved in the two- and three-digit lottery scheme.
Income from sales of lottery tickets under the scheme was intended to help needy schoolchildren, he insisted.
Mr Varathep was among 47 defendants implicated in the two- and three-digit lottery case. They included all 30 members of the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and 17 Government Lottery Office (GLO) board members.
About the author
- Writer: Patsara Jikkham