Court justifies charter ruling

Court justifies charter ruling

Wednesday's third and final reading in parliament of the charter amendment bill looks to be suspended following the release of the full text of the Constitutional Court's ruling on provisions necessary for the drafting of a new charter.

The bill involves amending Section 256 of the constitution which requires a new body to be established to oversee the process.

Last week, the court published the ruling in a shorter format which made it clear that the power to draw up the constitution rests with the people and that only a referendum would give parliament the mandate to write and implement a new constitution.

Assuming a rewrite received the necessary backing, any draft put forward by parliament would also have to put to the people in a second referendum to decide whether it should see the light of day. When the rewrite is done, the new charter draft would be put to a second referendum that would decide if it will see the light of day.

The short version of the ruling, however, left room for interpretation and a great deal has followed.

On Monday, the court provided reasoning for the legality of its ruling, stating that the draft amendment of Section 256 contained Chapter 15/1 that was added during scrutiny in the first and second readings of the bill.

The chapter effectively provides an avenue for a new charter, although two referendums may be necessary first, according to Kamnoon Sidhisamarn, spokesman of the Senate whip.

The court also stipulated that any amendment to Section 256 must have a the same popular mandate upon which the present constitution was founded. In other words, "changes" must not constitute an attempt to draw up a new constitution.

Therefore, while Chapter 15/1 remains active, tomorrow's third reading on the bill cannot go ahead, the senator said.

The Constitutional Court's short version of the ruling had divided opinion, with most opposition MPs insisting the amendment bill should proceed as planned tomorrow.

Paiboon Nititawan, the deputy leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), said yesterday members of the PPRP and other coalition parties must be sounded out about what they make of the full ruling.

Mr Paiboon warned that if the third reading vote was to was to go ahead tomorrow, any MPs who voted in support of the bill must be prepared to face the consequences.

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