The apex court explained that the ruling “cannot be enforced retrospectively” following confusion and uncertainty over the status of 10 renegade MPs who left the governing Progressive Party of Maldives after signing an opposition-led no-confidence motion against the speaker.
The lawmakers quit en masse after the Attorney General sought the anti-defection ruling, but the PPM secretariat refused to accept their resignation citing ongoing inquiries by its ethics committee.
The MPs have also been told to retract their signatures on the no-confidence motion by midnight.
But the lawmakers insist they are no longer PPM MPs and opposition-aligned lawyers say the 10 MPs cannot be disqualified because they submitted resignation letters days before the Supreme Court ruling.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will lose their seat once the Elections Commission informs parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties. The disqualified lawmaker will be able to contest the by-election triggered by the vacancy.
Sunday night’s court order also clarified that ruling will not apply if any “procedures related to the three conditions” were carried out before Thursday.
The ruling also applies to MPs who won their seats on a political party ticket. Of the ten renegade lawmakers, only MPs Abdulla Sinan, Saudhullah Hilmy and Ali Shah were PPM candidates. The rest were elected as opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, Jumhooree Party and independent candidates.
In its order Sunday night, the Supreme Court also sought to address criticism from lawmakers and lawyers, who contend that the ruling was unconstitutional and inconsistent with the Judicature Act, the political parties law and a 2012 precedent.
The Judicature Act requires five judges to hear constitutional cases but the anti-defection ruling was issued by a three-judge panel led by Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.
The court said the provision no longer applies because the law was amended in late 2014 to reduce the bench from seven to five judges.
“Under the first amendment to the Judicature Act, the bench of the Supreme Court is now five judges. Thus an odd number of judges that will be the majority of the bench is three,” reads the order.
The ruling does not exempt following due process as laid out in the political parties law or the governing statutes of parties, it added.
Article 16 of the Political Party Act states that membership can be relinquished without prior notice and that elected representatives will retain their seats despite expulsion from the party.
Citing Article 145 of the constitution, which states that “the Supreme Court shall be the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law,” the order declared that the apex court’s decisions cannot be challenged “on legal, jurisdictional or thematic grounds.”
The order concluded with a warning of action under contempt of court rules against misleading reports in the media.