Court insists law is on its side

Court insists law is on its side

Wasan says it can order constitution debate halt

The Constitution Court is insisting it has the authority to accept petitions against the charter amendment bill and order parliament to suspend the third reading of the legislation.

Criticism of its injunction prompted the court to call a press conference to explain its decision yesterday.

The government wants the debate on the bill to go ahead and says the court overstepped its authority in making its decision.

Court spokesman Pimol Thammapithakpong cited sections 69 and 70 of the constitution to support the court's acceptance of the petitions for examination, in addition to Section 68 of the charter which provides the basis for accepting the petitions.

Section 68 stipulates that anyone who becomes aware of acts to overthrow the constitutional monarchy or acquire power to rule the country by any means not based on the constitution may petition the attorney-general to investigate and submit a motion to the court for a ruling.

Mr Pimol said the court judges also took into account sections 69 and 70 of the constitution.

He stressed that exercising legal rights under the constitution must be given broad consideration.

Section 69 says a person shall have the right to resist peacefully any act committed to acquire power to rule the country by means which are not in line with the constitution.

Section 70 says every person has a duty to protect and uphold the country, religions, the King and the democratic regime of government with the King as head of state under the charter.

The court judges had concluded based on the three sections that anyone knowing of any acts as stated in Section 68 can submit a petition to the attorney-general, which will investigate the matter and pass it to the court, or file a petition directly with the court.

Court president Wasan Soypisudh said the court had only accepted the petitions for review.

The court had yet to issue a ruling at this stage. A month's delay in the deliberation of the bill would not cause any damage, he said.

Mr Wasan brushed aside claims that the court might have acted beyond its authority.

He said the entire bench of judges were well aware they could not do anything beyond that which is allowed by the constitution.

"The Constitution Court is not a political tool of anyone," Mr Wasan said.

Court vice-president Samrit Chaiwong said the court will examine evidence and hear testimony on the bill on July 5-6.

If no ulterior motives are found in the charter amendment legislation, the petitions would be dismissed and the parliamentary process could resume, Mr Samrit said.

House secretary-general Pitoon Phumhiran said yesterday a panel of legal advisers to Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranont concluded that the process to vote on the charter bill in its third and final reading would not violate the court's order suspending deliberations on the measure and would not breach the constitution.

Government chief whip Udomdej Rattanasathien said yesterday Mr Somsak had scheduled a joint sitting of parliament for tomorrow, but the charter amendment bill would not be on the agenda.

MPs and senators would be informed of the charter court's order. The meeting would then debate only proposed frameworks for negotiations with foreign countries under Section 190 of the constitution.

Deputy Attorney-General Atthapon Yaisawang said yesterday state prosecutors would meet today to consider petitions against the charter amendment bill.

If the prosecutors receive all necessary documents, they can recommend to Attorney-General Julasingh Vasantasingh whether the petitions against the bill should be submitted to the Constitution Court.

Democrat and opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the ruling Pheu Thai Party was trying to mobilise its supporters to pressure the charter court. The actions would undermine the rule of law, he said.

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