Court rejects govt Hopewell petition

Court rejects govt Hopewell petition

Original 2019 ruling binding, say judges

The Central Administrative Court has rejected a petition lodged by transport authorities seeking a retrial of the 2019 ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court in the "Hopewell saga".

The petition lodged by the Transport Ministry and the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) followed a Constitutional Court ruling on March 17 that said a Supreme Administrative Court verdict nearly 19 years ago was in fact a breach of the constitution.

However, the Central Administrative Court recently argued that even though a Constitutional Court ruling is legally binding on parliament, the cabinet, courts of justice, independent agencies and state agencies, such rulings do not bind other courts, Isra News Agency reported.

Moreover, the petition did not meet the criteria for the court to accept because it did not present any new evidence that warranted a retrial, according to the Central Administrative Court.

The Constitutional Court ruled on a petition submitted by the Transport Ministry and the SRT, which sought its clarification of a resolution passed by Supreme Administrative Court judges on Nov 27, 2002.

The Supreme Administrative Court cited the judgement on April 22, 2019 when it ordered the SRT and the Transport Ministry to pay 11.88 billion baht in compensation to Hopewell (Thailand) for the cancellation of a contract in 1998 to build a 60-kilometre elevated highway and rail system covering Bangkok.

The petition asked the Constitutional Court to rule whether the Supreme Administrative Court judges' resolution on the statute of limitations in the case ran counter to the 1999 Establishment and Proceedings of Administrative Cases Act, and whether it breached the constitution.

The Supreme Administrative Court judges had ruled that the statute of limitations in the Hopewell case should be counted from the day the Administrative Court was founded -- March 9, 2001.

It decided therefore that the company had sought the arbitration tribunal's judgement within the legal time frame.

However, the petitioners said the 1999 law made it clear that the statute of limitations commenced on the first known day of the dispute.

But a majority of Constitutional Court judges ruled that the resolution violated the constitution because the Supreme Administrative Court had failed to send it to parliament for inspection or publish it in the Royal Gazette as required by the law and the constitution.

These failures rendered the resolution "unenforceable", the judges declared.

The contract to build the "Hopewell Project" was signed on Nov 9, 1990 and when the 30-year concession was granted in 1990, investments in it totalled 80 billion baht. The contract was terminated on Jan 27, 1998 by the Chuan Leekpai-led Democrat government, when Suthep Thaugsuban was transport minister.

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