The Judicial Branch of the Government of Thailand
This branch consists of all the courts, which are independent bodies that perform the crucial check-and-balance function of those of the executive and legislative branches. These courts try cases or suits filed with them between or among individuals, and individuals against private or public entities. The courts render judgment based on the law they interpret and on the merits of the cases. When a certain court sees that the law being appealed to falls under, is more relevant to, or in conflict with a Constitutional provision, it will apply the enacted law. From an appreciation of the facts that unfold during the actual hearing of the evidence and testimonies, the court decides how the law applies or affects these evidence and testimonies. These courts also review executive acts and may decide against violations against the law by this branch.
The Basic Courts
These are trial courts, i.e., courts of first instance, appellate courts, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in Thailand is called the Dika Court. The Constitutional Courts, the Administrative Courts, and the Military Courts are recent additions to the judicial branch.
The Trial Courts
These are the district courts, provincial courts, the Central Courts – also called the Central Criminal Court or the Central Civil Court, located in Bangkok – the military courts, labor courts, family and juvenile courts, and the new International Trade and Intellectual Property Court. They are all courts of first instance. Losing parties in verdicts rendered by these courts very often file for an overturn at the appeals court. The decisions of trial courts and appeals courts – as well as other courts – proceed to the Supreme or Dika Court, although some decisions made by the trial courts may proceed directly to the Supreme Court for a review and a reverse decision. Supreme Courts are final and can no longer be appealed or reviewed further, except those rendered by the Constitutional Court. Trial Courts or Courts of First Instance are also called Courts of Justice.
Section 188 of the Constitution provides that trial courts shall try cases not only according to law and the Constitution but also in the name of the King. They shall perform this esteemed duty independently, fairly, and swiftly in alignment with the rights of the accused to a fair and speedy trial and independence. Royal acts establish courts. Creating a new court, adjudicating a case, and prescribing a procedure beyond what is existing in the law is forbidden.
The Constitutional Court
Section 255 to 268 of the new Constitution created this Court. Section 268 specifically states that the decisions made by this court shall be final and binding in all cases involving the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers, and, in fact, all courts and other state entities. Its decisions cannot be appealed and its rules are absolutely final. These bodies must comply with its decisions. The National Assembly consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. And the Council of Ministers consists of all the ministers of all the ministries. The power of this Court is that broad. It decides on the legality of all the bills and laws, whether already adopted or considered, by the National Assembly, and that of their provisions and acts. It determines if a bill or law is consistent with or contrary to the Constitution and can declare it or any part of it as valid or void and enforceable or not. It can, moreover, review the application of any law in any case and in any court. It can invoke by its sheer jurisdiction in any court where any case is pending. This can be done through any party’s raising an objection on the consistency of the law applied to the Constitution. Such an objection shall compel the court to hear the case to delay its decision by referring the objection to the Constitutional Court.
Duties and Powers
- To consider and rule on the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of a law or bill;
- To consider and rule on issues involving the duties and powers of the members of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the National Assembly, the Council of Ministers or independent entities;
- Other duties imposed by the Constitution.
Section 197 provides for these courts to try and adjudicate cases involving the exercise of administrative powers. They perform this duty by applying the precise administrative act provided by law. These Courts shall consist of a Supreme Administrative Court and Administrative Courts of First Instance. The Judicial Commission of Administrative Courts shall choose and supervise the judges of these Courts. The Commission shall consist of the President of the Supreme Administrative Court as the Chair. Its members are judges of the Administrative Courts who qualify. They shall not be more than two and have not or never been judges of Administrative Courts and elected by officers of those courts.
Section 199 of Part 4 provides for the creation of these courts. They are endowed with the power to perform acts pertinent to and to try and adjudicate offenses, within the jurisdiction of military courts. These include the establishment of procedures and implementation of operations of these Courts and the appointment of their judges as specifically provided by law. The King has the sole prerogative in appointing or removing judges and justices. When a given judicial office is vacated because of removal, retirement, or death, the King shall be informed and will make a decision or appointment.
When there arise disputes as to the jurisdiction of the right Court over a given case, a Committee shall be formed to make the decision. The Committee shall consist of the President of the Supreme as Chair, the President of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Chief of Military Judicial Office, and up to four qualified members as provided by law. The Committee shall strictly and completely apply the precise rules and procedures on reaching a verdict on the disputes as to which Court has the precise jurisdiction according to law.