The Constitutional Court of Thailand

The Ratthathammanun of 1977

This was the Constitutional Court of the Kingdom of Thailand, an independent court by the 1997 Constitution. It exercised jurisdiction over the constitutionality of royal decrees and acts of parliament, appointments and terminations of public officials and all the concerns of political parties.

Background and Highlights

A coup d’etat in 2006 created and installed a constitutional tribunal that, in turn, abolished this constitution and replaced this court. It had only nine members who were all selected from the judiciary. In comparison, the 1997 Constitutional Court had 15 members , seven from the judiciary and eight chosen by a special panel. The 2007 Constitution replaced it again and still with nine members. Heated public debates plagued the Constitutional Court. These mainly centered on jurisdiction, the composition and the initial appointment of justices and, most importantly, its extent of control over the court.

All its verdicts and orders are final or cannot be appealed and binding in all government offices and entities, including other courts, the Council of Ministers and the National Assembly.

These successive changes in court structure, membership, jurisdiction and other aspects resulted in a corresponding series of important decisions. Among them were the 1999 decision to retain Newn Chidehop as deputy minister despite an imprisonment sentence for defamation; the acquittal of Thaksin Shinawatra from the crime of filing an incomplete statement of assets at the National Anti-Corruption Commission; the voiding of the appointment of Jaruvan Maintaka as auditor-general in 2003; the abolition of the Thai Rakh Thai political party, the Raksa Chart Party in March 2019 and the Future Forward Party last year; and the termination of prime minister Yingluck Shinswatra’s office in 2014.

Nurak Marpraneet has been its president from September 2019.

The 2007 Constitution Court

This current Constitution Court decides petitions:

  1. on the validity of the resolution or regulation of a given political party or contrary to petitioner’s status or functions as that party’s representative or to the government’s fundamental democratic principles;
  2. if any person or political party is indeed exercising his or its constitutional rights and freedoms or actually opposing the democratic regime of the government, headed by the king and intending to seize power over it through illegitimate means;
  3. if a senator or representative has lost his membership;
  4. if the resolution made by a political party to terminate a representative’s party membership is contrary to his status or functions as such or to the fundamental democratic principles of the government, headed by the king;
  5. on the constitutionality of the draft of an organic act already approved by the National Assembly;
  6. if such a draft or one introduced by the council of ministers or representatives should, in principle, be suppressed;
  7. on the constitutionality of a bill already approved by the National Assembly per Section 510 but not yet submitted by the prime minister to the king; or reapproved by the National Assembly but has not been resubmitted by the prime minister to the king; or if its enactment complies with Constitutional requirements;
  8. on the constitutionality of draft rules of order of the House of Representatives, the Senate or the National Assembly, already approved by them but  have not been published in the government gazette; or if their enactment complies with Constitutional requirements;
  9. on whether a motion, motion amendment or action of a draft bill on an annual expenditure budget under consideration by the House of Representative, Senate or committee representative  senator or committee member directly or indirectly allows a representative, senator or committee member to be involved in disbursing the said budget;
  10. on whether a minister loses his ministership individually;
  11. on whether an emergency decree is an enactment against Section 184, paragraph 1 or 2 of the Constitution;
  12. on whether a written agreement requires prior parliamentary approval by the executive branch if that agreement:
  • contains a provision that may alter Thai territory or territorial territories it can capably exercise sovereignty or acquire jurisdiction through a written agreement or operations of international law;
  • the enactment of an act is necessary for its execution;
  • it will assert considerable impact on the national economy or the security of its people; or
  • it will very likely incur or bind the country’s national trade investment or budget.
  1. on the constitutionality of the application of a legal provision to any case filed at a court of justice, a military or administrative court;
  2. on the constitutionality of any legal provision, such as when a person’s constitutionally recognized right or freedom is violated or deprived;
  3. to rule on conflicts of authority between the National Assembly and the Council of Ministers or between two or among more than two constitutional institutions of government aside from the courts of justice and administrative and military courts;
  4. on situations confronted by an election commissioner such as a lack of qualification, a charge of disqualification or the commission of a prohibited act;
  5. on the dissolution of a political party believed or reported to have attempted to overthrow the government or intends to do so by means not recognized by the Constitution;
  6. on the constitutionality of any legal provision under Section 245 involving ombudsmen; and
  7. on the constitutionality of any legal provision involving human rights.

Composition

It consists of

  •   Three Supreme Court of Justice chosen by its plenum by secret ballot;
  •   Two Supreme Administrative Court chosen the same way;
  •   Two law experts as approved by the Senate upon their selection by a special panel. This panel is, in turn composed of the Supreme Court of Justice president, the president of the House of Representatives, the leader of the opposition, and one chief from among the constitutional independent agencies; and two experts in political science, public administration and other social sciences as approved by the Senate upon the selection of the panel.

Major Decisions by this Constitutional Court 

  1. The Unconstitutionality of Emergency Economic Decrees
  2. The Treaty Status the Letters of Intent by the International Monetary Fund or IMF
  3. The Constitutionality of the Appointment of Jaruvan Maintaka by the Senate as Auditor-General
  4. A Petition against the Conflict of Interest by Thaksin Shinawatra and His Impeachment
  5. The Dissolution of Political Parties after the April 2006 Election\  
  6. The Rejection of the Petition by the Ombudsman against the Prime Minister and His Cabinet regarding the Incomplete Recitation of the Oath
  7. The Court’s Verdict on General Prayut as not a State Official for not Possessing Authority as Prime Minister.

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