The parliament today accepted for consideration changes proposed to the Clemency Act to grant authority to the president to alter the punishment for convicts.
The bill proposed on behalf of the government by ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Thoriq ‘Tom’ was accepted with 51 votes following a preliminary debate.
The amendment to article 4(d) of the Clemency Act will authorize the president to change the nature of the punishment for crimes other than murder, offences for which a punishment in prescribed in Islamic Shariah, terrorism, sexual offences against a minor, drug trafficking, sexual assault, and homosexuality.
The article currently states that the president could alter a penalty to a more lenient punishment where the law provides the option for lighter penalties for the committed offence.
Presenting the legislation today, Thoriq said new laws specifying punishments and evidentiary standards have been passed since the clemency law came into force. The purpose of the amendments is to bring the 2010 law in line with the new laws, he said.
Thoriq also stressed the importance of offering rehabilitation for convicts found guilty of minor offences ahead of reintegration to society. Most MPs concurred with Thoriq’s view during the ensuing debate.
Changing the type of punishment is allowed by clemency laws in most other nations.
In late June, President Abdulla Yameen commuted former President Mohamed Nasheed’s 13-year jail sentence to house arrest amidst rumours that the opposition leader will be pardoned under a deal between the government and the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). Yameen is thought to have exercised special powers afforded in the Clemency Act to reduce criminal sentences.
The prosecutor general has since appealed Nasheed’s terrorism conviction at the High Court.
Thoriq has also proposed amendments to the new penal code that came into force on July 16. The amendment bill was introduced to the People’s Majlis at today’s sitting.
Thoriq proposed amending three provisions in the law, including section 1205, which deals with hudud or offences for which punishments are prescribed in the Quran.
“If an offender is found guilty of committing an offence to the extent of practical certainty as per the standard of proof established in Islamic Shari’ah, for which punishments are predetermined in the Holy Quran, that person shall be punished by the judge in accordance with this code,” reads section 1205.
The ruling party MP proposed replacing Holy Quran with Islamic Shariah.
Thoriq’s amendment states that if a person is found guilty beyond any doubt of an offence for which the punishment is prescribed in Shariah, the convict must be sentenced under Islamic Shariah.
Thoriq also proposed adding a clause stating that if the offence can be proven under different evidentiary standards specified under the law, the guilty party can be punished in accordance with other provisions.
The new penal code was hailed as a landmark law that would modernise the criminal justice system in accordance with the principles of Islamic Shariah as well as human rights.