The supreme court’s judgment declaring itself the final authority on the validity of no-confidence and impeachment votes has drawn widespread criticism from lawyers, lawmakers and legal experts.
The apex court controversially decided Monday that the parliament’s removal of the president, vice president, ministers, judges and officials of independent bodies will only stand after the court rules on the legitimacy of the no-confidence vote or the impeachment process.
The judgment was delivered after the Attorney General’s office asked the court to establish that the parliament can only dismiss cabinet ministers for committing an impeachable offence.
The AG office sought an interpretation of article 101 of the constitution, which states that a minister will cease to hold office if a majority of the People’s Majlis votes in favour of a no-confidence motion filed by at least ten lawmakers, “specifying the reasons.”
The case was filed amidst renewed political turmoil with a new alliance formed between opposition parties and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom seeking to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.
“Today is once again a dark day for the constitution,” former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain wrote on his Facebook page Monday night.
Speaking to Maldives Independent, Faiz said he personally finds many legal issues concerning the judgment.
“First of all, it is questionable whether the Attorney General can go to court over something like this. From the media reports I understand that the Attorney General wanted to add to the constitution,” he said.
“I believe he can only go to court in few circumstances including cases where the public’s or state’s interest needs to be protected and where there is a dispute over an article in the constitution or law.”
Faiz also questioned the legality of the specific instructions in the judgment for the parliament and other state institutions.
“I believe that this judgment should have been a deliberate judgement. Meaning that it should not be binding and the parliament and other institutions should have the power to act on it or leave it,” he said.
“However the persons who wrote the judgment have thought about this and imposed direct orders on specific institutions to make it appear otherwise.”
He also suggested that only an act of parliament can remedy the situation.
“When the supreme court delivers a judgement it is a must to obey and act on it. The only viable solution I see to this is for the parliament to pass a law regarding no-confidence motions,” he said.
Hussain Shameem, a legal expert and former deputy prosecutor general, meanwhile accused the supreme court of “encroaching on the parliament’s powers”.
“If the parliament does not respond in a similar or more powerful way we will soon see the apex court take the people’s power one by one. The judiciary has to be held accountable,” he said.
Fathmath Dhiyana Saeed, a former attorney general, said in a tweet that the court has “destroyed the legal order of our nation.”
Ibrahim Riffath, a former solicitor general, called the judgment “a travesty of justice.” The supreme court was “clearly making a mockery of the principle of separation of powers,” he tweeted.
Mariya Ahmed Didi, a former state attorney and lawmaker of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, suggested that “the people’s rule has ended” with the apex court’s judgment.
“All the powers of this nation have been taken into the hands of five people who were appointed without the direct say of the people,” she tweeted
Hassan Latheef, a prominent lawyer and the MDP’s chairman, contended that the constitution does not authorise the court to override the decisions of the people’s elected representatives.
“The final mark of the dictatorship is sealed shamelessly. It is time that all MPs should say enough is enough,” tweeted MP Ali Hussain of the opposition Jumhooree Party.
Hisaan Hussain, a prominent lawyer who has represented opposition leaders in high-profile trials, meanwhile quoted a US legal precedent: “No court of justice can be authorised to construe any clause of the constitution as to defeat its obvious ends.”
In the immediate aftermath of the judgment, several opposition lawmakers referred to article 87(b) of the constitution, which states, “Unless otherwise specified in this constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People’s Majlis shall not be questioned in any court of law.”
Weekend roundup: Undocumented migrant workers fill up stadium
Thursday roundup: U-turn on impeachment of chief prosecutor
News in brief: mosquito traps and internet prices
Wednesday roundup: Chief justice challenges watchdog inquiry
News in brief: Single-parent allowance and tenants rights
Warehouse fire in Maldives capital claims one life
Maldives coral reefs show signs of resilience and recovery
Minivan Brief: Weaponised Islam and #MvTreeGrab
More than 400 people displaced in Malé warehouse fire
News in brief: 150kg of heroin seized en route to Maldives
Crime1 month ago
Immigration stopped 11 ‘imposters’ with fake passports
Crime3 months ago
Charges raised over street harassment for first time in Maldives
Crime3 months ago
Ex-vice president detained in India after fleeing Maldives
Politics2 months ago
‘Terrorist group’ behind Rilwan’s abduction
Society & Culture2 months ago
Five dead in tragic accident at sea
Politics2 months ago
Maldives backs India’s ‘right to amend laws as required’
Business & Tourism3 months ago
India becomes second largest market for Maldives tourism
Crime2 months ago
Rilwan killed by Maldives group linked to al-Qaeda, presidential commission reveals