Constitutional Court to be protected against contempt

The junta-appointed Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) has protected the Constitutional Court against contempt under the organic law.

Udom Ratamarit, spokesperson of the CDC, revealed that the CDC has submitted the draft organic law on the procedures of the Constitutional Court to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), Voice TV reports.

He said the NLA will consider the bill on 28 September 2017.  

The draft includes provisions to protect the Constitutional Court from contempt.  Unlike the courts of justice, the Constitutional Court is currently not protected against contempt.

Udom said Article 39 of the bill sets out a penalty of up to one month in prison, or a 50,000 baht fine, or both, for people who make ill-intentioned criticism of the Constitutional Court, including those who post such criticisms online. 

Article 198 of the Criminal Code states that whoever insults courts or judges during the trial or adjudication of a case, or obstructs the trial or adjudication of the court, shall be punished with imprisonment of no more than 6 months or a fine of no more than 10,000 baht, or both.  There is no appeal against contempt of court rulings.

However, the broadening interpretation of what constitutes contempt has caused concern among legal circles. Lawyers argue that without a strict interpretation of what constitutes contempt, the integrity of the justice system is at risk.

Last month, the Supreme Administrative Court sentenced Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of a political group called the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution (APTC), to 14 months in prison and a fine of 700,000 baht.  He was accused of ‘using sarcastic words’.