The Supreme Court has reinstated four lawmakers who were deemed to have lost their seats for crossing the floor.
In unanimous judgments delivered Monday, the apex court ruled that its July 2017 anti-defection ruling was misapplied by the Elections Commission to unseat the former ruling party lawmakers.
According to the ruling, MPs who were elected on political party tickets will be disqualified once the EC notifies parliament that they have either left their party, been expelled, or switched parties.
It was clear that MPs Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim, Saud Hussain and Mohamed Ameeth were expelled from the Progressive Party of Maldives long before the July 13 ruling, which could not be applied retroactively, the judgments noted.
MP Abdul Latheef Mohamed had asked the EC to remove his name from the party registry on July 11 after the PPM failed to acknowledge his resignation letter in June.
During hearings last year, the state argued that the MPs remained on the PPM’s registry until the party formally requested their removal on July 18.
Disregarding their previous expulsions and resignation letters, the PPM expelled them for refusing to withdraw support for a bid to impeach Speaker Abdulla Maseeh Mohamed.
– Justice delayed –
The four were among a dozen former ruling party lawmakers who were deemed to have lost their seats when they backed the speaker’s impeachment.
Their defection realigned the parliament majority in favour of the opposition.
The EC also decided to hold by-elections as the constitution requires vacant seats to be filled within two months.
But the lawmakers challenged their removal at the Supreme Court, which the constitution says must settle disputes concerning “the removal, or vacating of seats, of a member of the People’s Majlis.”
With the apex court unable to reach a judgment since hearings began in August last year, 60,000 constituents were deprived of representation in parliament for more than a year.
Last Wednesday, the EC reversed its decision to consider the 12 seats vacant. But in an order issued hours later, the Supreme Court quashed the EC’s decision and declared that any parliamentary vote with the 12 MPs would be invalid and unconstitutional.
The court is yet to begin hearings in the cases of the other eight former PPM MPs. But the judgments are likely to be similar as they had also left the party before the anti-defection ruling.