The Constitution Court will on Wednesday consider a petition by a senator asking it to issue an injunction against the charter amendments now being debated in parliament.
The petition was submitted to the court on Tuesday by Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn.
A senior judge said there were three possible Constitution Court decisions. First the court could reject the petition or it could accept the case without issuing an injunction. Or the court could accept the case and issue an injunction.
If the court does issue an injunction, the parliament president must halt the charter amendment debate. If parliament refuses, then the vote would be nullified.
In his petition, Sen Somchai said amending Section 68 could revive an attempt to amend Section 291, still awaiting a third reading in parliament, to allow the establishment of a charter drafting committee to rewrite the whole constitution.
The attempt to amend Section 291 was blocked by the Constitution Court on July 13 last year following a petition filed by opponents, citing Section 68, asking the court to rule whether the proposed changes were part of a plan to overthrow the monarchy.
Seats in the opposition bloc are left empty yesterday after Democrat Party MPs walked out in protest at Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich chairing the joint parliamentary meeting on charter amendments. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Section 68 allows members of the public to ask the charter court to examine moves that could undermine the constitutional monarchy or grab power through unconstitutional means. The bill to change Section 68 stipulates that the public would no longer be able to directly petition the Constitution Court. The petition would have to go through the attorney-general first.
Sen Somchai said the change would violate the court's ruling that the public has the right to file a petition directly with the court.
He asked the court to issue an injunction suspending the ongoing charter change process in parliament and order parliament, 312 senators and MPs _ including parliament president Somsak Kiatsuranont _ to abandon their move to amend sections 68 and 237 of the constitution.
The senator also asked the court to dissolve the Pheu Thai Party, the Chartthaipattana Party, Phalang Chon Party, Mahachon Party, and New Democrat Party of which those MPs are members.
Constitution Court secretary-general Chavana Traimas on Tuesday said the court staff have now checked the petition and will place it on the court judges' meeting agenda for 3pm today.
Parinya Thewanarumitkul, a Thammasat University law lecturer, believed the court will accept the case.
Mr Parinya, however, said he did not think the ongoing debate on the charter amendment bills would be halted if the court issued an injunction.
"There are no legal clauses authorising the judicial branch to intervene against legislative power," Mr Parinya said, adding that the court may issue some "recommendations" for parliament to follow and it remains to be seen how the legislators would react.
The House debate over the three bills that propose changing sections 68, 190 and 237 and sections relating to the origin of senators wraps up today.
Amending Section 190 would change the current requirement that some international contracts go through parliament.
Amending Section 237 would prevent a party from being dissolved when an executive commits electoral fraud.
The change to sections relating to how senators are selected is aimed at having all senators elected. Existing senators are both selected and elected.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit accused Sen Somchai of filing his petition with political motives.
He said the bill to amend Section 68 is intended to help ease the burden on the court, not to strip the public of the right to file petitions directly.
If all the petitions are submitted to the court without going through the public prosecutors first, the court will be overloaded, Mr Prompong said.
Meanwhile, the opposition Democrats on Tuesday walked out of the House for a second day in protest against Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich chairing the debate on the charter change bills.
However, Mr Nikhom told parliament he will abstain from voting on the charter amendments in response to allegations he has a conflict of interest.
People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan yesterday said that the alliance will meet tomorrow and then announce its next move to try to derail the charter amendment push.
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Writer: Mongkol Bangprapa, Manop Thip-Osod & Aekarach Sattaburuth