Parliament passed the revised penal code today more than four years after it was resubmitted to the 17th People’s Majlis.
If ratified by the president, the new penal code will replace the existing law that was drafted and enacted in the 1960s.
The new law will come into force one year after ratification and publication in the government gazette.
The revised penal code (Dhivehi) was passed with 48 votes in favour, one against and three abstentions.
The penal code was first put to a vote in December, 2013, after review by a select committee. It was rejected 36-34 with one abstention and returned to the committee.
Parties in the ruling coalition issued a three-line whip to defeat the bill on the grounds that principles of Islamic Shariah law were not adequately reflected in the final draft.
The bill passed today was however the same draft voted on in December with three amendment submitted by an MP. MPs had been required to submit amendments before January 20.
The first draft of the penal code was prepared in 2006 at the request of then-Attorney General Hassan Saeed by Professor Paul Robinson, a legal expert from the University of Pennsylvania.
Following its initial submission to the 16th People’s Majlis in 2006, the draft legislation was resubmitted in late 2009 after the election of the 17th Majlis, where it remained in committee stage until December last year.
Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MP Ahmed Hamza – chair of the select committee that reviewed the draft legislation – told Minivan News in December that delays in completing the review process was due to the long periods required for seeking commentary and consultation from state institutions such as the Attorney General’s Office and the Islamic Ministry.
During the parliamentary debate in December, MP Ibrahim Muttalib insisted that “no human being has the right to rephrase divine laws in Islamic Sharia into separate articles in a law.”
Progressive Coalition MPs contended that some penalties in the final draft were in conflict with provisions of Shariah law.
Religious conservative Adhaalath Party Sheikh Ilyas Hussain had also previously criticised the bill, claiming that it would “destroy Islam”. Ilyas’ remarks subsequently prompted a parliamentary inquiry.