A group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday sought a constitutional interpretation over the government’s move to nationalize irrigation associations.
The Legislative Yuan in July last year passed the Act of Irrigation (農田水利法) that converted 17 irrigation associations nationwide into a government body.
The Council of Agriculture in October last year inaugurated the Agency of Irrigation to oversee the associations, whose assets are valued at about NT$75.6 billion (US$2.67 billion).
Prior to the enactment, KMT lawmakers had opposed the move by seeking a constitutional interpretation, basing claims on Article 40 of the Organic Regulations for Irrigation and Water Conservancy Associations (農田水利會組織通則); but the appeal on Aug. 28 last year was turned down by the Council of Grand Justices, which said that the lawmakers had failed to meet standards outlined in the Act on the Council of Grand Justices Reviewing Constitutional Interpretation Requests (司法院大法官審理案件法).
In a second attempt yesterday, 38 KMT lawmakers tendered another request for the council to issue a constitutional interpretation of articles 23 and 34 of the Irrigation Act.
The Irrigation Act contravenes freedom of association and amounts to government seizure of private property, the lawmakers said, adding that it harms Taiwan’s democratic governance.
Based on the principle that laws should not be retroactive and the principle of legitimate expectation, associations should not be eliminated by a new law, the legislators said, citing the example of the Red Cross Society continuing to exist despite the abolishment of the Red Cross Society act in 2016.
The associations should continue to exist and would simply fall under the jurisdiction of the Civil Associations Act (人民團體法) and the Civil Code, they said.
The new act also contravenes the principles of legal reservation and proportionality, they said.
The abolishment of associations must have a legal basis — which the government lacks — and such an action should only be taken if there is a need to ensure the public good, the lawmakers said.
The irrigation associations have demonstrated that they are entirely capable of autonomous operation, they said.
The legislators also cited Article 8 of the Water Act (水利法), which designated the associations as a public corporation, saying that the Ministry of the Interior has no jurisdiction over association property, which should remain private.
The request was received by Hsu Chen-chou (許辰舟), head of the Council of Grand Justices’ Clerk Office.
The council’s response to the request would depend on whether it is up to standard, Hsu said.
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