The nationalization of Taiwan’s 17 irrigation associations under the Agency of Irrigation in July 2020 did not contravene the Constitution, the Constitutional Court ruled yesterday.
The move did not contravene the principle of legal clarity, nor people’s freedom of association, guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution, said Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力), who heads the Constitutional Court.
The nationalization process did not infringe on property rights, nor did it violate the non-retroactivity principle or the principle of legitimate expectation, Hsu said.
Photo: Tsung Chang-chin, Taipei Times
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators said the nationalization of the irrigation associations under the Irrigation Act (農田水利法) was disproportionate and amounted to stealing from the public.
The irrigation agency was established without amending the Organizational Act of the Council of Agriculture (行政院農業委員會組織條例), and therefore breached the legal reservation principle and the Act Governing Central Administrative Agencies and Organizations (中央行政機關組織基準法), the legislators said.
The agency was founded via executive order, instead of by following due process, they said.
The Taoyuan irrigation association, a plaintiff in the case, said the act breached its members’ freedom of association, infringed on their property rights and endangered their livelihood.
The Executive Yuan countered the argument, saying that irrigation associations are public legal persons that provide indirect administrative oversight on behalf of the government.
Therefore, the former irrigation association system was not based on constitutional rights and the associations cannot ask for basic guarantees under the Constitution, the Cabinet said.
Taiwanese expect improvements to food safety, and fair and efficient use of water in light of changing agricultural practices amid concerns over climate change, the Council of Agriculture said.
These are expectations that the irrigation associations, many of which were mired in financial and administrative issues, could no longer meet, the council said.
The need to nationalize the associations into a government agency was urgent and necessary, it said.
The government initiated dialogue with the associations and the public to ensure they are involved in every step of the transition, the council added.
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