Court dismisses House petition for referendum interpretation


The Constitutional Court dismissed the House of Representatives’ petition asking for an interpretation of regulations related to the number of public referendums necessary for a charter rewrite.

Seven of the nine judges in court on Wednesday voted to reject the request, saying the court had already issued an interpretation on the topic in 2021.

On March 29, the House voted 233 to 103 to ask the charter court for a ruling on how many public referendums would be needed for a new Constitution to be written.

The House decided to take the matter to court after House Speaker and Parliament President Wan Muhammad Noor Matha refused to add the charter amendment bill to the agenda for a joint House-Senate sitting.

Coalition leader Pheu Thai had proposed to amend Article 256, allowing the entire Constitution to be rewritten.

Pheu Thai and Move Forward both agreed that there should be two referendums – one after Article 256 is amended and another after the new charter draft is approved by the charter drafting assembly.

However, the government committee in charge of the charter amendment believes there should be three referendums, with the first being held before the bill to amend Article 256 is submitted to Parliament.

To settle the difference, the House speaker called for a vote, which resulted in a decision to seek a court ruling on the matter. The request also asked the court to further clarify its 2021 ruling on the issue.

In its decision, the court said that the House speaker and Parliament president had the authority to put any bill on the House or Parliament’s agenda, including one on charter amendment.

It said the charter’s Article 80 empowers the Parliament president to add the charter amendment bill to the Parliament’s agenda.

The court also noted that it had provided a clear explanation in 2021 on how many public referendums were needed for a charter to be rewritten.

In 2021, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Parliament had the authority to write a new Constitution, but only after it had public opinion on whether or not it wanted a new charter.

Once the new charter draft is completed, the people’s opinions must be sought again on whether they accept the new charter draft or not.

Meanwhile, judge Sumet Roicharoen was not present at the court meeting because he has yet to be sworn in and endorsed by His Majesty before he can start working as a charter court judge.

Judge Udom Ratamarit withdrew from the voting because he was among the judges who had issued a similar interpretation in 2021.

Any Constitutional Court ruling requires a quorum of at least seven judges.