Majlis committee opens up draft Penal Code for amendments

The Parliament’s special committee reviewing the draft Penal Code Bill has announced the completion of the reviewing of the bill and has opened the bill for amendments from parliamentary floor.

In a statement (dhivehi) released by the parliament today (December 24) stated that commenting has been opened until next Thursday 4:00pm.

Furthermore, the statement added that the final report on the draft bill has now been sent to Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid upon completion of the committee reviewing stage.

The long awaited bill, first submitted in 2006 and later resubmitted in 2009, took almost seven years to surpass the committee stage.

The first draft of the bill had been prepared by the University of Pennsylvania Law School under the leadership of legal expert Professor Paul H. Robinson, upon the request of the Attorney general in January 2006. The project was also supported by the UNDP.

Professor Robinson’s team have meanwhile published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

“The author’s review suggests that the Maldivian criminal justice system systematically fails to do justice and regularly does injustice, that the reforms needed are wide-ranging, and that without dramatic change the system and its public reputation are likely to deteriorate further,” Professor Robinson wrote in his summary conclusion.

The bill, upon ratification, will replace the country’s 52 year old penal law.

According to local newspaper Haveeru, members of the parliament’s special committee tasked with the reviewing of the bill had urged all members to consider the connection between sections of the bill before proposing any changes.

The parliament had previously consulted with all state authorities including the Attorney General’s Office, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) and the police during the committee stage of the bill.

According to local media reports, the Attorney General’s Office alone had proposed over thirty changes to the bill including a clause mandating that the new bill will come into force within six months of ratification.


The bill had also attracted severe criticism from religious sheikhs, most notably member of religiously conservative Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Ilyas Hussain, who insisted that the bill would “destroy Islam” should it pass.

“If it is passed, there is no doubt that there will be no religion in this Muslim society that claims to be 100 percent Muslim. There will be no Islamic punishments,” the controversial sheikh said while delivering a sermon last March. “Refusing [to incorporate] a single Hadd [fixed punishments specifically mentioned in Quran] is destroying Islam,”

The fierce remarks made by Ilyas – who heads the Adhaalath Party’s scholars’ council and sits in the Fiqh Academy – prompted in a parliamentary inquiry where the sheikh was summoned to the committee.

New changes

Professor Robinson in the final report compiled that included the two new volumes of the penal code stated that a high priority had been given to ensure that the bill reflects Maldivian values instead of European, American or any other jurisdiction.

“The drafters have relied primarily on three sources. Of first importance are current Maldivian statutes. Where there is no applicable Maldivian statute, principles of Shari’a have been relied upon, especially those of the Shafi’i school,” read the report.

“Lastly, shared community values have been given deference, as reflected in the views expressed by the many Maldivian judges, prosecutors, private defense lawyers, government officials, and ordinary Maldivians we have met during our many discussions,” it added.

The new code will consist of three parts, the first part titled as the General Part contains all of the general provisions affecting liability and punishment. The second part known as the Special Part defines all offences and the third part contains the rules governing the sentences.

Among the major changes brought in the Draft Penal Code – which consists of more that 1,200 sections – includes grouping of offences into chapters based on the subject matter, modernisation of the existing offences and grading of the offences to reflect on the seriousness of the offences.

Previously speaking to local media, Chair of the Penal Code Review Committee MP Ahmed Hamza said the new code, if passed, would revolutionise the current Maldivian criminal justice system.

Hamza furthermore expressed hope that bill would be passed before the end of the current parliamentary session.


Revised penal code to be considered by Majlis next week

The parliamentary committee assigned with reviewing the penal code will present the finished draft to the full house on Monday, local media has reported.

After considering 30 late amendments suggested by the Attorney General’s Office late last month, the committee has added a clause mandating that the new code will come into force within six months of ratification, reported Sun Online.

The initial draft of the penal code was prepared by legal expert Professor Paul H Robinson and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, upon the request of the Attorney General in January 2006. The project was supported by the United Nations Development Program.

Professor Robinson’s team have published two volumes (volume 1 and volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

The bill was first sent to the Majlis (parliament) in 2006 and will replace the 1961 penal code.

The new code has provoked much debate, with the Adhaalath Party’s Sheikh Ilyas Hussain perceiving a lack of Islamic punishments in previous drafts.


Parliament committee to probe Sheikh Ilyas Hussain’s “false preaching” over draft penal code

Parliament’s committee responsible for drafting the new penal code has slammed the “false preaching” of the Chair of Adhaalath Party’s Scholars Council Sheikh Ilyas Hussain over the bill.

In a sermon given on Friday evening at the Furugaan Mosque, under the title “Purpose of Islamic Sharia”, Sheikh Ilyas declared that the new penal code does not recognise fornication with mutual consent as an offence, said committee’s member MP Nazim Rashaad.

During the parliamentary committee’s meeting held on Tuesday, Thulhaadhoo Constituency MP rejected the claim stating that no such stipulation was included in the draft penal code.

Rashaad said that section 130 of the draft bill states that sexual intercourse with another person without consent is categorised as “rape” under the new bill.

The existing penal code does not explicitly recognise “rape” as a crime, and cases are handled under provisions for sexual offences.

Rashaad contended that whether sheikh or not, nobody could misinterpret the clause and claim that the bill did not recognise “mutually consented sexual intercourse” as an offence, and accused the Sheikh of lying to discredit the bill and parliament.

Briefing committee members on the sections concerning sexual offenses, Rashaad stated that under the draft penal code, both fornication and rape are offences under section 411 of the draft bill.

“These people are deliberately making misleading comments regarding the draft bill without doing proper research.  They are attempting to discredit the bill and incite hatred among people towards the parliament and the members of this committee,” the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP alleged.

Following Rashaad’s comments, Chair of the Committee MP Ahmed Hamza stated that the committee will look into the case.

The committee also decided to send a written request to local radio station Atoll Radio seeking recordings of the sermon which was broadcast.

Amendments to bill

The parliamentary committee’s decision follows its rejection of all but one amendment to the bill suggested by the Fiqh Academy of the Maldives.

Speaking to local media on Monday, Hamza said  the committee had decided to accept only a suggestion concerning the offence of theft.  Other amendments, he said, were merely changes to the wordings of the bill and carried little legal weight.

“They have submitted amendments to abolish certain sections. These include certain legal defences. When we looked into removing those defences, we found this impacted fundamental principles embedded to the draft penal code. So we decided to reject their suggestions,” he said.

Following the decision, Vice President of the Fiqh Academy Sheikh Iyas Abdul Latheef told local newspaper Haveeru that the academy had informed parliament that current draft penal code should not be enforced in the country.

Speaking of amendments proposed by the Fiqh Academy, Latheef claimed that the defence of intoxication included in the bill, if proven in court, could lead to the acquittal of a convict, but said the academy’s proposal to remove the defence had been rejected by the parliament.

“The current draft does not include the Hadds established under Islamic Sharia. There is no mention of the death penalty for murder, the punishment of stoning for fornication, the punishment of amputation for theft and the punishment for apostasy. We proposed amendments to include these punishments,” he said.

Iyas also echoed the remarks made by Sheikh Ilyas Hussain in which he too claimed that the current draft implied that fornication with mutual consent was not an offence.

He also added that the bill stating that a convict should be able to use voluntary intoxication as a defense conflicted with the rules and principles of Islamic Sharia.

Furthermore the vice president of the Fiqh Academy said the draft penal code bill was drafted in such a fashion that it would encourage criminals to commit crimes and disregard the principles behind punishments prescribed under Islamic Sharia.

Along with the Fiqh Academy, the religiously conservative Adhaalath Party has also sent a letter claiming that the bill as a whole contrasts with Article 10(b) of the Constitution which states: “No law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives.”

Responding to the criticism, Chair of the Committee Ahmed Hamza claimed that even though the committee had decided to reject the suggestions, amendments could be brought to the bill when the committee sends the bill to parliamentary floor.

US assistance with draft

The initial draft of the penal code was prepared by legal expert Professor Paul H Robinson and the University of Pennsylvania Law School of the United States, upon the request of the Attorney General in January, 2006. The project was supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Professor Robinson’s team have published two volumes (Volume 1 and Volume 2) consisting of commentaries on sections of the draft bill.

In an interview given to Times Higher Education UK, Professor Robinson was quoted as stating that the draft bill strictly adhered to the principles of Islamic Sharia and Islamic law as the “law in the Maldives is based on Sharia”.

“The cultural norms are quite different,” He said. “What the Maldives will want to criminalise and the ranking of the seriousness of offences will be different in many ways (from the US system). They criminalise adultery, for example, whereas most American jurisdictions have dropped it.”

“Some of these provisions have symbolic religious significance more than practical importance. I’ve never actually heard of anybody who has more than one wife, though it may well be that there are some somewhere,” he was quoted saying.