(LEAD) Constitutional Court rejects petitions against prosecution reform legislation
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By Kim Han-joo
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- The Constitutional Court on Thursday struck down petitions seeking to nullify a package of law revisions designed to significantly reduce the prosecution's investigative powers even though it recognized procedural flaws in the legislation's passage through the National Assembly.
The court made the decision in two separate rulings, effectively concluding that the revisions to the Prosecutors' Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act are valid.
The legislation was aimed at significantly reducing the prosecution's investigative powers by limiting prosecution probes to only two types of crime: corruption and economic crime. Critics denounced the legislation as a "complete deprivation of the prosecution's investigative power."
Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon and six prosecutors later filed a petition seeking to nullify the legislation on grounds that prosecutors' investigative rights are guaranteed in the Constitution.
But on Thursday, the Constitutional Court rejected the petition in a 5-4 decision, saying the legislation was aimed at adjusting investigative and prosecutorial powers between state agencies and does not violate prosecutors' constitutional rights.
The court also rejected a similar petition filed by two lawmakers of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) seeking to nullify the passage of the legislation.
The court, however, ruled in a 5-4 decision that the revisions were approved in the parliamentary judiciary committee in an irregular manner without sufficient debate.
The main opposition Democratic Party (DP), which controls a majority in the 300-member National Assembly, railroaded the legislation through when it was the ruling party last year before President Yoon Suk Yeol took office in May.
In the course of its passage, irregular means were employed, such as the DP having one of its lawmakers on the judiciary committee, Rep. Min Hyung-bae, quit the party in an apparent attempt to neutralize the opposition's attempt to block the bills' passage.
The PPP lawmakers have since filed petitions with the Constitutional Court over the unconstitutionality of the DP's railroading of the prosecution reform bills.
The court said a judiciary committee chief artificially created the situation for the passage of the bills without actual deliberation process, stripping lawmakers of an opportunity for debate.
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