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The TCC delivers its Judgment 113-Hsien-Pan-5 (2024)


    TAIPEI, May 29 — The Taiwan Constitutional Court (TCC) delivered its Judgment of the "Case on the Criminalization of Insulting a Public Official or the Discharge of Public Duties"[1] (TCC Judgment 113-Hsien-Pan-5) on May 24, 2024.

Principal Facts, Issues, and Procedure of the Case

    Article 140 of the Criminal Code stipulates: "A person who insults a public official during the discharge of his or her legal duties or publicly make insults about the discharge of such legal duties shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year, short-term imprisonment, or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand New Taiwan Dollars."[2] A question arises as to whether imposing criminal punishment for insulting an on-duty public official or publicly insulting the discharge of his or her legal duties is compatible with the constitutional protection of freedom of speech.  

    There are five petitioners in this case. One is a judge from the Changhua District Court who questioned the constitutionality of the provision when hearing relevant criminal cases, and the others are defendants who were found guilty under the disputed provision. The petitioners argued that Article 140 of the Criminal Code infringes the freedom of speech for not conforming to the principles of clarity of law, proportionality in sentencing, equality, and proportionality. In addition, some of the petitioners also filed constitutional complaints against their final court decisions. 

    The petitioners' cases were consolidated and argued on December 26, 2023. Judgment 113-Hsien-Pan-5 (2024) was announced on May 24, 2024. Justice Jau-Yuan HWANG wrote this Judgment. Two concurring opinions, two opinions dissenting and concurring in part, and three opinions dissenting in part were filed.  


Decision of the Court

    The TCC ruled Article 140 of the Criminal Code partly unconstitutional for violating the protection of freedom of speech

    In the Holding of this Judgment, the TCC divided the provision into two parts for review: (1) the punishment of insulting an on-duty public official (first half of the provision) and (2) the punishment of insulting the discharge of the official's legal duty (second half of the provision).
In terms of the first half of the provision, the TCC applied intermediate scrutiny and ruled that the part is constitutional so long as it is construed as limited to the insults that are to the extent of hindering the public official's discharge of legal duties

    In terms of the second part of the provision, the TCC applied strict scrutiny and ruled that the part is unconstitutional for imposing disproportionate restriction (i.e., criminal punishment) on people's speech against the conduct of public power. The TCC ruled that the second half of the provision should cease to be effective immediately. 

    The TCC quashed the final court decision of Petitioners IV and V's case and remanded their cases to the Taiwan High Court.

[1] Previously argued under the case name “Case on the Criminalization of Insulting a Public Official.”

[2] Translator's note: Italic text adjusted from the official version for gender neutrality.



  1. Full texts of the Judgment and Opinions are available on the TCC website here (Traditional Chinese). An English summary of this Judgment will be available later on the TCC English website.
  2. The TCC's Case News is prepared by the Department of Clerks for the Constitutional Court (Judicial Yuan) for information only and does not bind the Court. 
  3. In case of any conflict of meaning between the Traditional Chinese version and the translated English version, the Traditional Chinese version shall prevail. 

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