Charter Court faces 'reset' blitz
At least five judges could lose their jobs
The Constitutional Court is likely to be partially "reset" as some of the existing judges who do not meet the stricter qualification requirements under the new constitution will be removed, a Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) spokesman says.
CDC spokesman Amorn Wanichwiwatana said Sunday the CDC has now finished the first draft of an organic bill on the Constitutional Court's trial procedures.
Under the bill, the court is made up of nine judges, reflecting the current composition, with a seven-year term in office, Mr Amorn said.
He said the court judges must meet new, stricter qualification requirements stipulated by the new constitution.
Any of the existing court judges who are qualified under the new charter will stay on and those who are not must be removed from office, Mr Amorn said, adding the CDC wants the qualification requirements for members of independent agencies to be stricter.
However, when the bill is forwarded to the National Legislative Assembly for deliberation, the lawmakers still have the final say on how to amend it, the CDC spokesman said.
Mr Amorn said the CDC has applied the so-called reset principle to the bill on the Constitutional Court as in other organic bills on other independent agencies, such as the Election Commission and the Ombudsman.
The "reset" principle will result in fresh selections of some or all of the members of several independent agencies to ensure they are qualified under the new charter.
However, some NLA members argued the reset approach should not apply to every independent agency. It should be applied only when necessary to avoid possible repercussions on the work of those agencies in the future, they argue.
The new constitution stipulates that the nine Constitutional Court judges are appointed by His Majesty the King.
Of the nine judges, three are selected from a plenary meeting of the Supreme Court and they must be Supreme Court chief judges for at least three years.
Another two are selected from a plenary meeting of the Supreme Administrative Court and they must be Supreme Administrative Court judges for at least five years.
Another is selected from experts in the field of law who are or used to be university professors for at least five years with an outstanding academic portfolio.
Another is selected from experts in the field of political science who are or used to be university professors for at least five years with an outstanding academic portfolio.
The other two are selected from serving or retired civil servants holding the position of at least department director-general or equivalent or holding the position of at least deputy attorney-general for at least five years, according to the new constitution.
When the organic bill on the Constitutional Court becomes law, at least five of the existing nine Constitutional Court judges will have to leave office.
The five judges were supposed to have stepped down from office in May this year when their nine-year term expired, but Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha issued an order under the former interim charter to allow them to stay in office until the organic law on the court is enacted.
But observers noted that three of the other four existing Constitutional Court judges are likely to be lose their jobs as well since they are not qualified under the new constitution.
"The CDC wants members of independent agencies to have higher qualifications. The Constitutional Court has an important task to carry out and it must receive recognition," Mr Amorn said.
He also said the CDC will consider the organic bill on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) this week. The CDC has also set up a panel of experts to help it work on drawing up the bill.
Mr Amorn stressed that members of the anti-graft body must also meet the qualification requirements under the new constitution.
In principle, the NACC under its new structure must take a more proactive approach to its work without the need to wait for others to file complaints with it, Mr Amorn added.
Chartchai Na Chiang Mai, another CDC spokesman, said that the CDC is expected to begin considering an organic bill on the election of MPs and an organic bill on the Senate, section by section, next month.
Mr Chartchai gave assurances the CDC will finish all 10 organic bills within a 240-day timeframe or before Dec 4 this year.
The final bill to be submitted to the NLA for deliberation within the timeframe is the bill on the election of MPs, he said.
He admitted the bill on the election of MPs and the bill on the Senate are difficult to draw up. The Senate bill in particular is a tough one as it will contain new proposals.
Also Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the government has now submitted three organic bills to the palace for royal endorsement.
Of them, the bill on the Election Commission came into effect on Wednesday, while the bill on political parties and the bill on the trial procedures for political-office holders have not yet been returned to the government.