THAILAND LEGAL SYSTEM (Con't)

 

 

3. Judicial System

  

The Courts of Justice are classified into three levels consisting of 

3.1 Courts of First Instance; 

3.2 Courts of Appeal and; 

3.3 Supreme Court or called in Thai "Sarn Dika" (top of the hierarchical system) 

3.1 The Courts of First Instance 

The first category of the Courts of First Instance consists of the Civil Court, the Criminal Court and the Minburi Provincial Court, all of which are situated in Bangkok. Each has civil or criminal jurisdiction according to the name given.  The first two posses a high status, in that not only do they have original jurisdiction over parts of Bangkok, but also discretionary power to accept for trial those cases outside Bangkok. 

The Courts of First Instance are categorized as general courts, juvenile and family courts and specialized courts. The general courts are ordinary courts, which have authorities to try and adjudicate criminal and civil cases, which are Civil Courts, Criminal Courts, Provincial Courts and Kwaeng (Sub-District) Courts. 

3.1.1 General Courts 

For the general courts, except the Kwaeng Courts, at least two judges form a quorum.  An appeal against a judgment on both questions of law and, subject to some conditions, questions of fact or an order of the general courts lies to the Courts of Appeal. 

With respect to the administration of the Provincial Courts and Kwaeng Courts, the Office of the Court of Justice Region headed by the Chief Judge of that Region, is responsible for the courts in the Region in some extents. 

In the case where the office of the Chief Judge of Region becomes vacant or in the case of the Chief Judge's inability to perform official duties, the President of the Supreme Court will appoint a judge to perform duties of such Chief Judge. 

The Chief Judge of the Region is regarded as a judge of any court in his region with power to try and adjudicate particular cases, such as cases concerning offence against public security, serious criminal offence, high amount claim and contempt of court. When it is necessary, the Chief Judge of the Region has power to order a judge of the court in his region upon the latter's consent to work temporarily for not more than three month in another court. The Chief Judge, however, must immediately inform the President of the Supreme Court about such order. 

3.1.1.1 Bangkok 

Civil Courts

Under Thai Law, the plaintiff must bring a civil case to the court where the case arises or where the defendant is domiciled.  Where an immovable property is involved, the plaintiff has to bring a lawsuit to the court where such property is situated, or where the defendant is domiciled. In Bangkok, Courts of First Instance dealing with civil cases are the Civil Court, the Civil Court of Southern Bangkok, the Thon Buri Civil Court and the Min Buri Provincial Court depending on a district where the cause of action arises or where the defendant is domiciled. Before 1977, the Civil Court was only a court adjudicating civil cases in Bangkok; yet the high increase of caseload in the Civil Court led to the setting up of the other civil courts in Bangkok. 

For disputes on civil matters occurring outside the territorial jurisdiction, the Civil Court has discretion either to try and adjudicate those cases or to transfer them to the court having territorial jurisdiction. 

Criminal Courts 

As regards criminal cases, the court in a district where an accused resides or is arrested, or where an inquiry official makes an inquiry has jurisdiction over the cases. In Bangkok, Courts of First Instance handling criminal cases are the Criminal Court, the Criminal Court of Southern Bangkok, the Thon Buri Criminal Court and the Min Buri Provincial Court depending on a district where an accused resides or is arrested, or where an inquiry official makes an inquiry. Like the Civil court, the reason to establish other criminal courts in Bangkok was to alleviate the workloads of the Criminal Court. Also, the Criminal Court has a discretion either to try and adjudicate criminal cases arising outside its territorial jurisdiction but was brought before it or to transfer them to the court having territorial jurisdiction. 

The Min Buri Provincial Court 

The Min Buri Provincial Court, the only provincial court in Bangkok Metropolis, deals with both civil and criminal cases arising in the northern part of Bangkok Metropolis. The character of this court is the same as the general provincial courts. 

Kwaeng Courts 

The primary function of Kwaeng Courts is to dispose of small cases quickly with a minimum formality and expense. The jurisdiction of these courts covers both criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases fallen in the jurisdiction must deal with the criminal offence punishable with a maximum of three years imprisonment, or fine not exceeding 60,000 Baht or both. For civil cases, the amount of claims must not exceed 300,000 Baht. The proceeding in Kwaeng Courts is emphasized on the speedy trial, therefore, the trial is more simple and oral judgment or summarized judgment is issued. 

  

3.1.1.2 Other Provinces 

Provincial Courts 

Provincial Courts exercise unlimited original jurisdiction in all general civil and criminal matters within their own districts, which are generally the provinces themselves.  For the purpose of expansion of services of the court to the distance area, some provinces may have more than one Provincial Court.  For example, in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, there are three Provincial Courts, i.e., Nakhon Ratchasima Provincial Court, Sekew Provincial Court and Buayai Provincial Court. Where a case within the jurisdiction of Kwaeng Court brought to the Provincial Court, the latter has to transfer the case to the former.  Each Provincial Court has a Chief Judge who is the head and responsible for the judicial work of the court.  The Director of the Office of such Provincial Court (Registrar) under the supervision of the Chief Judge is responsible for administrative work of the court. 

Kwaeng Courts 

The detail of Kwaeng Courts in other provinces is the same as Kwaeng Courts in Bangkok Metropolis explained above. 

3.1.2 The Juvenile and Family Courts 

The Juvenile and Family Courts consist of the Central Juvenile and Family Court, the Provincial Juvenile and Family Courts, and the Division of Juvenile and Family Court in the Provincial Courts. Two career judges and two associate judges, one of those must be a woman, constitute a quorum of the Juvenile and Family Courts. An appeal against a judgment or order of the Juvenile and Family Courts lies to the Courts of Appeal. 

3.1.3 Specialized Courts 

There are four specialized courts in Thailand, i.e, the Labor Court, the Tax Court, the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court, and the Bankruptcy Court. The establishment of the specialized courts is to ensure that specific or technical problems will be solved by an appropriate judge. A judge in the specialized courts is appointed from a judge who possesses competent knowledge of the specific matters. A quorum of two specialized courts, namely, the Labor Court and the Intellectual Property and International Trade Court consists of both career judges and associate judges. Associate judges are laymen recruited separately to work together with career judges in adjudicating cases. It should be noted that at present each specialized court has only the central court, except the Labor Court which now has branches situated in other provinces. 

 

3.2 The Courts of Appeal 

The Courts of Appeal consist of the Court of Appeal and nine Regional Courts of Appeal. The Court of Appeal handles an appeal against the judgment or order of the Civil Courts and the Criminal Courts. Meanwhile, the Regional Courts of Appeal handle an appeal against the judgment or order of the other Courts of First Instance.  The jurisdictions of the Regional Courts of Appeal are consistent with the jurisdictions of the Courts of First Instance Regions 1-9. Each Courts of Appeal is headed by the President of the Court assisted by Vice Presidents of the Court.  The Court is divided into divisions. Each division has one chief justice and two other justices. At least three justices form a quorum. 

An appeal on point of law and, subject to certain specified restrictions, on point of fact lies from the Courts of Appeal to the Supreme Court. 

Each Courts of Appeal has a Research Division consisting of research judges. Primary functions of the Division are to assist justices of the Courts of Appeal by examining all relevant factual and legal issues of the cases, conducting legal researches and discussing with those justices to ensure uniformity and fair results. 

 

3.3 The Supreme Court 

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in all civil cases and criminal cases in the whole Kingdom.  The Court consists of the President, Vice Presidents, the Secretary and a number of justices. It is divided into divisions with three justices in each division.  The President of the Supreme Court is also the head of the Courts of Justice.  In the present system of the Courts of Justice, the President of the Supreme Court plays a great role in judicial and administrative works. 

Like the Courts of Appeal, the Supreme Court also has the Research Division consisting of research justices. 

At least three justices of the Supreme Court form a quorum.  The court may, however, sit in plenary session to determine cases of exceptional importance and cases where there are reasons for reconsideration or overruling of its own precedents. The quorum for the full Court is not less than half of the total number of justices in the Supreme Court. 

As a result of the 1997 Constitution, the Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions was set up in the Supreme Court to act as a trial court in a case where the Prime Minister, a minister, member of the House of Representatives, senator or other political official is accused of becoming unusually wealthy, committing malfeasance in office according to the Criminal Code, performing duties dishonestly, or being corrupted according to other laws. 

In trial, a member of the House of Representatives or a senator is unable to claim the immunity provided in the constitution. The Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in the Supreme Court must rely on the record of the National Counter Corruption Commission and may investigate to receive additional facts and evidence as it thinks fit. 

The quorum of this special division of the Court consists of nine justices of the Supreme Court who hold position of not lower than justice of the Supreme Court, and are elected by a plenary session of the Supreme Court justices on a case by case basis.  A judgment will be made by a majority of votes; provided that each justice constituting the quorum will prepare the written opinion and make oral statements to the meeting before making decision.  Orders and decisions of the Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions in the Supreme Court will be disclosed and final.

 

 

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