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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 June 17 - 23  > Court: Cabinet has legal obligation to respond to Dietmembers’ request for convocation of Diet session
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2020 June 17 - 23 [POLITICS]

Court: Cabinet has legal obligation to respond to Dietmembers’ request for convocation of Diet session

June 17, 2020

The Naha District Court on June 10 ruled that the Cabinet will have a constitutional obligation to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet if requested by Dietmembers based on Article 53 of the Constitution. This is the first court ruling to this effect and important from the viewpoint of guaranteeing opposition parties their role of overseeing the government.

The court battle was launched by Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Representatives Akamine Seiken and three other Dietmembers elected from Okinawa Prefecture. They demanded state compensation by claiming that an opposition parties’ official request for the convocation of an extraordinary Diet session in 2017 was ignored by the Abe Cabinet for nearly 100 days.

On June 22, 2017, Dietmembers of the JCP and other opposition parties jointly urged the Abe Cabinet to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet by saying that Diet discussions are necessary to investigate the “Moritomo” and “Kake” favoritism scandals which Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is allegedly involved in and refuses to sincerely explain about. This action was taken based on Article 53 of the Constitution which stipulates, “When a quarter or more of the total members of either House makes the demand, the Cabinet must determine on such convocation.”

However, the Abe Cabinet’s response to the official demand was very slow. The extraordinary Diet session was not convened until September 28 or 98 days after the demand was made. In addition, PM Abe dissolved the Lower House immediately after the convocation and no Diet discussion took place.

The four Dietmembers in their court battle argued that the Abe Cabinet violated Article 53 by putting aside the opposition parties’ request for 98 days.

The court ruling, while rejecting the claim for compensation, pointed out that the Cabinet has a constitutional obligation to call an extraordinary Diet session if urged officially by Dietmembers based on Article 53. The ruling also suggested that non-compliance of this obligation can constitute a violation of the supreme law. The state, the defendant, in the court insisted that the Cabinet does not have such a legal obligation.

The ruling acknowledged the legal grounds and binding power of Dietmembers’ demand for a convocation of a Diet session. With the current Diet session going into recess on June 17, this court judgement has a special meaning under a situation where the ruling parties ignored opposition parties’ request for the extension of the session apparently in a bid to prevent opposition parties from questioning the government about its measures to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Past related articles:
> Constitutional scholars criticize Abe for dissolving Diet in violation of Constitution [September 28, 2017]
> Abe should convene extraordinary Diet session to investigate ‘Kake Gakuen’ scandal [June 24, 2017]
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