Bill can still proceed if court rejects constitution drafting assembly

Bill can still proceed if court rejects constitution drafting assembly

Parliament can still proceed with the third reading of a charter amendment bill even if the Constitutional Court rules against a proposed amendment aimed at setting up a charter writing body, Ramate Rattanachaweng, a secretary to the parliament president said on Wednesday.

The court will meet today, but whether it will rule on the legality of charter change proposals remains to be seen, Mr Ramate said. If the court rules against setting up a constitution drafting assembly (CDA) to write a new charter, parliament could not vote on the issue concerning the establishment of a CDA, contained in a charter amendment-related bill up for its third reading, he said.

However, parliament can still vote on proposed charter amendments to Section 256 of the constitution. Section 256 says charter changes require the support of at least one-third of the Senate, or 84 senators. The section also stipulates that a referendum is required if an amendment involves the charter, chapters on general principles and the monarchy. These requirements are widely seen as a major hurdle to rewriting the constitution.

Proposed charter amendments were passed at their second reading on Feb 25. Parliament adopted two charter amendment bills, one proposed by the government and another by the opposition after their first reading on Nov 18. They are combined into one in the scrutiny stage.

On Feb 9, parliament agreed the court should rule on the legality of the amendment process following a motion introduced by Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) list MP Paiboon Nititawan and Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn. They said they were concerned that amendments paving the way for the creation of a CDA could be unconstitutional because parliament was only authorised to change the charter, not create a new one.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said if the court rules against the process, there would be no need for a parliamentary session for a third reading. However, the government could still amend the constitution section by section, he said.

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