The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Independent MP Ismail Abdul Hameed could not attend parliament sittings as long as his conviction by the Criminal Court on corruption charges is not overturned.
The full bench of the apex court however ruled that the Kaashidhoo seat could not be declared vacant until Hameed exhausted the appeal process.
After the High Court upheld the Criminal Court verdict earlier this month, the convicted MP has filed an appeal at the Supreme Court, which has yet to decide whether to hear the case.
At Thursday’s hearing, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz noted that under section 55 of the parliamentary rules of procedure, an MP convicted of a criminal offence could no longer attend sittings and participate in votes, adding that this was the norm in free and democratic societies.
The Chief Justice however stressed that Hameed had the right to appeal his conviction, with the possibility that it could be overturned.
Parliament sittings have meanwhile been disrupted and cancelled since October 24 due to a dispute between opposition and ruling party MPs over Hameed’s right to attend sittings.
The resulting deadlock has seen sittings cancelled for three consecutive weeks, excepting the week-long holiday preceding the SAARC summit on November 10 to 11.
Addressing objections of opposition MPs who insisted sittings could not go ahead with Hameed in attendance, Speaker Abdulla Shahid had said that in cases of dispute parliament did not have the legal authority to determine if an MP was stripped of his or her seat.
Shahid noted that according to article 74 of the constitution, “Any question concerning the qualification or removal, or vacating of seats, of a member of the People’s Majlis shall be determined by the Supreme Court.”
Opposition MPs however contended that there was no room for dispute as an MP with a sentence to serve could not attend parliament.
Following the second week of forced cancellations, Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that opposition MPs did not wish to disrupt proceedings but were objecting because article 73(c)(3) of the constitution clearly stated that MPs found guilty of a criminal offence “and sentenced to a term of more than twelve months” would be stripped of their seat.