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Pheu Thai MPs to seek impeachment of Constitution Court judges

Apr 19. 2013
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By The Nation

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Judges abused authority by agreeing to review charter-change bill, they say

Pheu Thai MPs yesterday threatened to file criminal charges against Constitutional Court judges and seek their impeachment over what they regard as the court’s interference in the legislative branch’s power.

Samart Kaewmeechai, a Pheu Thai MP from Chiang Rai, said the legal team of Pheu Thai was gathering evidence for filing charges against the judges related to their decision to review the charter-amendment bill.
Constitutional Court judges voted 3:2 to accept a petition of Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn to consider whether the proposed amendment to Article 68 of the Constitution would be unconstitutional.
MPs and senators announced Thursday that they would not accept the Constitutional Court’s role in considering Somchai’s petition as they believed the court had no power over the affairs of the legislative branch.
Samart said the judges should be charged with abusing their authority for accepting Somchai’s petition.
He said MPs and senators would also sign their names to initiate an impeachment process against the Constitutional Court judges. The motion would then be sent to the Senate speaker.
Samart added that since MPs and senators had decided to send a formal statement to the Constitutional Court rejecting their authority, they would not have to submit a written explanation to the court within 15 days, as demanded by the court.
He said the parliamentarians decided to seek impeachment of the Constitutional Court judges to preserve the principle of independence between the three branches of power – the executive, the legislative and judicial branches.
Court ‘violated power’
Pheu Thai MP Pichit Chuenban, a legal expert of the party, said the Constitutional Court violated the power of the legislative branch by accepting Somchai’s petition for a judicial review. 
Pichit added that Article 291 of the Constitution allowed Parliament to amend some articles of the charter and that the planned amendment to Article 68 would not deprive the people of their rights as charged.
However, a lecturer of law pointed out yesterday that the statement planned by MPs and senators had no legal status and would therefore have no effect on the Constitutional Court.
Kittisak Pokkati, a lecturer of law from Thammasat University, said the Constitutional Court’s decisions did in fact have legal binding on all organisations, including Parliament.
He said if MPs and senators refused to accept the Constitutional Court’s authority, they must instead file a lawsuit against the Constitutional Court judges with a court of justice, to consider whether the judges had abused their authority or not.
The lecturer said if MPs and senators refused to send explanations to the Constitutional Court, the court could proceed with the review without the explanations.
Pimol Thampithakpong, a spokesman of the Constitutional Court, said the law requires those persons who have had complaints lodged against them to submit their defence statements to the court within 15 days, or else the court would assume they did not want to defend themselves.
Parliament President Somsak Kiartsuranont yesterday declined to comment on the MPs and senators’ plans to send a statement to the Constitutional.
“I don’t want to comment on the issue. It needs to be considered by the legal affairs committee of Parliament first,” Somsak said.
Appointed senator, Somjet Boonthanom also filed a petition with the Constitutional Court yesterday against the Article 68-amendment, asking the court to issue an injunction to suspend it.
In another development, the Democrat Party yesterday threatened to seek an impeachment against Somsak for allowing a retroactive 15-day vetting of three charter amendment bills from April 4, even though Parliament only decided the timeframe on Thursday. The three bills were passed in the first reading on April 3. 

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