SCourt rules parliament MP count 'wrong'

Supreme Court bench hears case on controversial amendment to parliament's standing orders.

Supreme Court of the Maldives has held the parliament's decision to amend Article 49 of the Parliament's Standing Orders to fix maximum number of MPs at 80 is in ultra vires with the Maldives Constitution.

The apex court in its order held that since Article 49 has already been repealed, there is no legal remedy.

After seven MPs resigned, parliament's majority party, MDP, amended the Standing Orders to exclude the seven MPs from the total count.

Attorney General's Office filed with the Supreme Court, challenging the parliament's decision, seeking to revoke the amendment.

Parliament responded to this by completely repealing the amended article, and included a new provision.

AG Office requested from the top court to hold parliament's amendment of Article 49 in breach of the constitution.

Justice Dr. Azmiralda Zahir, who chaired the bench, said that the Constitution ensures the election of MPs to the parliament did not intervene with the spirit of, and the fundamental rights ensured by the constitution.

The judge also highlighted that the resignation of seven MPs from the 19th Parliamentary Assembly, which originally consisted of 87 MPs, did not impede on any of the parliament's crucial works.

"It is for this reason, I find it difficult to believe the parliament's decision on the matter was made without ill intention," Dr. Azmiralda said.

She further explained that the quorum of an 87-MP total parliament would be 22 members, but once the total MPs reduce to 80, the quorum reduces to 20.

The judge further noted that should 22 out of the 80 MPs do not attend parliament proceedings, it could be resolved by amending the disciplinary policies of the members.

The Supreme Court judges bench included Dr. Azmiralda along with Justices Aisha Shujuoon, Husnu-al-Suood, Mahaz Ali Zahir, and Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim.

The bench coincided with the opinion provided by Dr. Azmiralda.

The top court held that counting the total number of MPs by excluding vacant positions, was in violation with the constitution. 

However, legal action on the issue is now impossible following parliament's decision to repeal the provision.