Supreme Court undermining parliamentary independence, says Majlis committee

The Parliamentary Privileges Committee has on Sunday passed a motion submitted by Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Imthiyaz Fahmy regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to void four articles in the Parliament’s Privileges Act.

Meanwhile, fellow MDP MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor’s prosecution for failure to attend the Criminal Court was overturned in the High Court today. Hamid had claimed parliamentary privileges in his defence.

Fahmy’s motion states that while the Surpreme Court had on November 28, 2013, ruled void articles 3(b), 11(a), 13(c) and 16, the decision is one that contradicts constitutional stipulations and compromises the independence of the parliament.

In the motion, Fahmy proposed that the committee agree that the Supreme Court’s actions undermine the parliament and its members’ privileges and powers, and that by ruling to void said articles, the court has breached the constitutional stipulation that no power of the state attempts to exert influence over another.

He further asked the committee members to determine the matter as a serious concern which needs to be raised in the full parliament, while also being brought to the attention of other actors including agencies of the UN and Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU).

Fahmy proposed raising the matter with international actors and seeking assistance to protect the independence, privileges and powers of the parliament.

Speaking at the committee, Fahmy further alleged that the court was working to “undermine the power of the people despite our constitution stating that all powers of the state stem from the citizens”.

“We are seeing the Supreme Court as an entity working to blatantly oppose empowerment of the people. By voiding articles from acts passed by over-riding majorities from among the people’s representatives, they are blatantly challenging citizen empowerment. Every single sitting of the SC has become a threat to this country’s democratic process,” Fahmy said in Sunday’s committee meeting.

“A wide range of international actors have criticized this country’s judiciary and its apex court, including several UN agencies, UN Special Rapporteur Knaul, EU and various foreign governments. How I see it, the Supreme Court is the biggest threat to the country’s democratic process. I condemn the SC’s action and call on this committee and parliament to do all possible to stop such actions,” he continued.

“This is not a practice in democratic societies”: Fahmy

Speaking to Minivan News after the meeting, Fahmy further alleged that the court had made void articles other than those included in the Attorney General’s submission.

“A case can be submitted to the Supreme Court questioning whether a certain act, or an article of a particular act contradicts the constitution. However, one cannot submit, nor can the courts accept, a case questioning whether an act or an article of an act is granted as ‘absolute power’ or asking to clarify what it means,” he said.

“SC repealed clauses on their own initiative too, while the Attorney General has not even proposed to. This cannot happen and this is not a practice in democratic societies.”

“Perhaps they have learnt acts of this sort from countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt or others. Places where there is no democratic culture and where people are suffering from state sponsored injustices,” he said.

Fahmy himself was being tried for contempt of the Supreme Court for comments criticizing the body on television, though the MP’s defence has claimed the regulation in question expired in 2011.

MDP MP Hamid, who was taken to jail after the Criminal Court gave him a six month jail sentence for failure to attend court hearings, had his appeal case heard on Sunday.

A High Court bench of three judges overturned the Criminal Court sentence in Sunday’s appeal hearing.

Head Judge of the panel, Judge Yoosuf Hussain stated in court today that the Parliamentary Privileges Act at the time of sentencing still had a clause stating that MPs cannot be summoned to court in a manner that will inconvenience their attendance to parliament meetings.

Judge Hussain said that due to this reason, Hamid’s failure to attend hearings cannot be judged as having been without a justified reason.

He further stated that the lower court had failed to follow due process to be observed in the instance that a court summons cannot be delivered to a person, and if their families refuse to accept the summons on their behalf.

The judge said that as a result of this failure, the High Court does not believe the lower court had grounds to act against MP Hamid in this instance.


6 thoughts on “Supreme Court undermining parliamentary independence, says Majlis committee”

  1. I like to say something about Hameed being sent to prison on alcohol charges.

    It is a well known fact that Maldivians drink alcohol. It has always been the case. Drinking alcohol has become more common after tourist resorts were established.

    There are a lot of Muslims in Finland and many of them drink alcohol.

    Drinking alcohol, By itself, should not be punishable with imprisonment, in any country, in the year 2013 AD. If alcohol drinking resulted in other crimes, that would be a different thing.
    It is not alleged that Hameed committed any other crimes.

    In fact there is no absolute proof that he drank alcohol either.

    There are other, more important, reasons that he should not be sent to prison. There is the modern human rights aspect of the case after all. Has he in anyway threatened society or the state? I do not think he has.

    Most important of all is the fact that he is a parliamentarian, and the parliament is the most important political institution in the country. There is something called Parliamentary privilege.

    We are living, in the Maldives, under an Islam instituted By Mr Gayoom. It is the judges he trained that we have. It is the laws that he passed that we have.

    Everything was geared for his rule, and that rule continues, today, with renewed vigour, after Mr Gayoom's PPM won the presidency again, a few days ago.

    We have no less a Mr Gayoom than Mr Yameen Gayoom.

    Mr Gayoom has another chance to bring his country, the Maldives, forward into the 21st century. Looking at Maldives from Finland, where I live, I have a feeling that I am not just in another country, but that I am on another planet.

    I would appeal to the international community to do something about this. Maldivian judiciary is running riot, and as Imtiaz says, working openly against empowerment of the common people.

    The army and the police are not modern institutions either. In this climate, I am afraid the old order and the old values continue to dominate and frustrate the will of the people as expressed in Parliament.

    Events in Maldives remind me of Burma and Thailand.

    Maldives is not a paradise but hell, utter hell. It is frustrating to me as well as Imtiaz.

  2. I strongly agree with you.
    What ever that is said in the religion it is up to an individual to follow what prefers and if it is a sin then it is between him and God. As far as his act doesn't threaten the society he has not committed a crime. After all we live in the 21st century and I know that many Maldivians consume alcohol and go to prostitutes when they are abroad.

  3. @ Michael Fahmy :

    " Maldives is not a paradise but hell, utter hell ".

    Dude I feel the frustration too but lets not exxagerate our plight huh. Take a moment and remember Syria, Palestine, Burma etc where people are afraid to wake up the next morning.

    @ sha : " As far as his act doesn't threaten the society he has not commited a crime "

    Thats a very good logic that needs to be applied when passing sentences. But in the case of MPs, the effect is heavy indeed as they are representatives of the people and are supposed to be examples for the society.

  4. Stop this nonsense about drinking alcohol.

    A daily glass of red wine is recommended by doctors. Its good for your health.

    The problem with Maldivians is they drink to get wasted.

    Wine and food is a culture....... its an enjoyment...
    So those who criticise and oppose please chill and enlighten yourselves.

    Maldivian judiciary has gone bonkers.

  5. This is not a parliamentary democracy and the Supreme Court is able to review legislation.

    I'm not saying everything they do is right but the Supreme Court was right on the mark on this one. I think the wider public very much supports removing the unreasonable (AND NOT FOUND ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD) protection from the criminal justice system given to MPs by the clauses that were removed from the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

    Its regrettable that MPs in our country are always taking about their rights and privileges without spending much time advocating on behalf of their constituents.

  6. There seems to be a battle of Parliament vs. Judiciary in the Maldives. It is a battle that neither of them should win. They should learn to co-exist and co-operate as intelligent and enlightened people living in a very small country.

    Maldivians do not have very much experience of democracy, and so it would not be surprising if parliamentarians do not behave properly. Rule of law has not been the foundation of Maldivian society and so judiciary's misbehaviour is not surprising either.


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