Alleged criminal intent does not negate a Supreme Court order for the reinstatement of a dozen opposition lawmakers, the apex court ruled Tuesday.
The decision came at the first hearing of a case filed by the Attorney General’s office to nullify the shock February 1 ruling, which secured an opposition parliament majority and freed President Abdulla Yameen’s jailed opponents ahead of elections in September.
Raising a procedural argument at the start of the hearing, the state attorney asked the court to rescind the “unconstitutional” order on the grounds that it was issued with the criminal intent of toppling the government, local media reported.
Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Justice Ali Hameed took bribes and misled the other justices, state counsel Masha Luthfy contended, citing terrorism and bribery charges raised against the detained pair.
After consulting among themselves, the three justices – who also signed the unanimous February 1 order by the full bench – rejected the procedural motion.
Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi explained that criminal allegations against an individual judge cannot invalidate an order by the bench, which could only be overturned after a judicial review process.
The section of the February 1 order that quashed criminal convictions of nine prisoners was overturned upon review based on legal reasons and not criminal intent, he said.
After posing several questions to the state attorney, the three-judge bench concluded Tuesday’s proceedings and announced that a second hearing could be scheduled if the court needs further clarification.
A dozen ex-Progressive Party of Maldives MPs were contentiously disqualified last year after the Supreme Court ruled that MPs elected on political party tickets would lose their seat if they left their party, got expelled, or switched parties.
Their removal by the Elections Commission was used to wipe out a new opposition majority and protect the parliament speaker from impeachment.
The Supreme Court effectively reinstated the renegade MPs by overturning its July 13 anti-defection ruling last month.
After the security forces stormed the court and arrested two justices and the chief judicial administrator, the three remaining justices suspended enforcement of the reinstatement section, pending a decision on the AG’s appeal.