The Supreme Court has issued an injunction ordering parliament to withhold the impending no-confidence motions against both Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim and President Mohamed Waheed Hassan.
The ruling was made after a case concerning the legality of the no confidence motions had been filed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and lawyer Mohamed ‘Wadde’ Waheed Ibrahim.
The Supreme Court in its injunction today ordered parliament to withhold the no-confidence motion until it could decide on the legality of the matter after looking into the “necessary constitutional principles that had to be followed”.
Earlier this month, Ibrahim filed the case in the Supreme Court contending that the parliament’s decision to make impeachment votes a secret ballot was unlawful.
Speaking to local media after filling the case, Ibrahim said that Article 85 of the constitution clearly articulates that a session of parliament can only be held in ‘closed doors’ only if the issue debated in parliament concerns the national security of the state and if not the sessions should be held open to public.
He said therefore parliament does not have the authority to come to a decision outside its jurisdiction laid down in the constitution and sought the Supreme Court to invalidate the decision.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had proposed a no-confidence motion against President Mohamed Waheed Hassan in October claiming that the police and the military had “brutalised” its supporters on February 8 under direct orders from the president himself.
The MDP also alleged that President Waheed had destroyed the sensitive economy of the nation and adversely impacting investor confidence in the Maldives.
Other reasons, the MDP alleged, included the failure of President Waheed’s administration to curb gang violence in the country, as well as his government taking a loan worth MVR 300 million (US$19.5 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) without prior approval from parliament – a violation of Public Finance Act and Public Finance Regulation.
The MDP subsequently proposed the amendment to parliamentary regulation which would pave the way for a secret ballot in the vote to impeach President Waheed. However, the first attempt, despite approval from parliament’s General Affairs Committee was defeated in parliament by 39 to 34 votes.
Parliament this month passed the amendment when it was again re-submitted and approved with a 41 to 34 majority. The approval was backed by two government aligned parties, the Jumhoree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
Legality of two DRP seats
Meanwhile, Ibrahim has also raised doubts over the legality of the secret ballot decision, claiming it was passed by the votes cast by two DRP MPs Ahmed Nashiz and Ali Azim, whose seats he claimed were in question.
JP’s Policy and Legal Committee member Mohamed Haleem Ali had previously filed a case in the Supreme Court asking it to rule the concerned parliamentarians “unfit to stay in their elected seats” over the Bank of Maldives (BML)’s foreclosure on their loans.
“The Civil Court’s ruling number 935 of 2009 asks them to pay back the debts to BML. They didn’t. So I have submitted this case in accordance with subclause one of Article 73(c) and 74 of the constitution,” Haleem said at the time.
Subclause 1 of Article 73 of the Constitution of the Maldives states that a candidate for membership or a sitting member of the parliament would be disqualified if he has a decreed debt which is not being paid as per court rulings.
Article 74 states that any question concerning the qualifications or removal of a member of the People’s Majlis shall be determined by the Supreme Court.
Both MPs Nashiz and Azim were elected to parliament in 2009 general elections, the same year in which the civil court ordered them to pay the BML debts. The case was accepted by Supreme Court on December 10.
Supreme Court decision ‘void ab initio’: Ibra
Following the decision, former MP and Chair of Drafting Committee of Constitutional Assembly (Special Majlis) Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail stated that the decision was “void ab initio” (void from the beginning).
“They cannot suspend the decisions of the parliament. Parliament should not adhere to the decisions of Supreme Court,” he said.
“Parliament is free to conduct its business anyway they want to. Only the public can reprimand the parliament,” he added.
Counsel General of Parliament Fathimath Filza and Parliamentary Speaker Abdulla Shahid were not responding to calls at time of press.
No one should meddle with the courts: Supreme Court
In a previous bid, the Supreme Court issued an order quashing the decision of Parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee to not recognize the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Supreme Court in the order stated that while the Maldivian constitutional system broadly entertained the principle of separation of powers, no one power of the state can go beyond the limits set out in the constitution.
“According to articles 5, 6 and 7 of the constitution that came to force on 7 August 2008, the Maldivian constitutional system has explicitly set out that the executive power, legislative power and the judicial power is independent from one another and the boundaries of each power being clearly set out, it is unconstitutional for one power of the state to go beyond its constitutional boundaries as stated in article 8 of the constitution,” read the order.
The Supreme Court also in its order maintained that as per the constitution, the judicial power of the state was the sole constitutional authority in settling legal disputes between the institutions of the state or private parties.
“The judiciary established under the constitution is an independent and impartial institution and that all public institutions shall protect and uphold this independence and impartiality and therefore no institution shall interfere or influence the functioning of the courts,” it added.
Speaking to Minivan News yesterday, Former Foreign Minister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran Dr Ahmed Shaheed identified the “pathetic state of the judiciary” as one of the key human rights concerns he believed needed to be addressed in the Maldives.
“[The judiciary] is not only corrupt, but also coming under the influence of radical Islam, even to the extent of violating codified laws of the Maldives and clear international obligations,” Dr Shaheed claimed yesterday.
“Disregard for rule of law has also meant that a culture of impunity is deeply entrenched, rendering many of the human rights of the people meaningless.”