The draft penal code bill has been amended to include punishments as prescribed in the Quran, such as amputation for theft.
The new article added during a parliamentary committee meeting Thursday (March 28) states that if someone convicted of a crime requires legal punishment, as specified in the penal code, that person will face punishment as stated in the Quran.
MP Imthiyaz Fahmy clarified the amendment to the draft penal code is about hadd punishments only and “not at all” about all Sharia offences, speaking with Minivan News today.
“Hadd offenses are already crimes in the draft penal code. However the prescribed punishments in Sharia for those particular crimes are not codified in the draft penal code, but instead they are left up to the interpretation of Sharia,” stated Fahmy.
“But to completely evade making a reference to hadd punishments or to mention that no hadd punishment at all should be imposed is impossible to the the fact that Sharia shall be one of the basis of all the laws of the Maldives,” he added.
Criminal punishments are detailed for murder, fornication, thievery and drinking alcohol.
The committee’s chairperson, MP Ahmed Hamza, told Sun Online the new draft penal code will require amputating persons convicted of theft, while a person convicted of apostasy (renouncing Islam) will also face punishment.
The bill does not include apostasy as a crime, therefore someone found guilty of this offense cannot be subjected to Quranic punishment, committee member MP Ahmed Mohamed clarified.
Gambling is also not criminalised, according to committee member MP Abdul Azeez Jamaal Aboobakuru. He told local media that the bill does not “state a manner in which such crimes can be convicted”.
Fahmy explained that Sharia law does not prescribe a hadd punishment for gambling.
The penal code draft bill does include factors that must be considered before convicting a person of murder; for example, any contradictory evidence would prevent such a conviction.
Imposing the death penalty cannot be subject only to the confession of the accused.
“Sharia does not run headlong into death penalties, amputation or stoning to death. Therefore depending on the circumstances, Sharia may avoid capital punishments,” said Fahmy.
He further clarified that Sharia punishments may be interpreted according to any of the schools of Sunni Muslims.
While interpretation of Sharia law punishments are within the purview of Maldivian judges, Fahmy believes that the current judicial system is incapable of providing Maldivian people justice, even with the new penal code.
“I do not believe the judiciary and the criminal justice system in the Maldives is capable of doing justice or able to take care of the new penal code. The judiciary is unable to ‘keep up with the Jonses’,” Fahmy stated.
The parliamentary committee’s additions to the bill follow its rejection of all but one amendment suggested by the Fiqh Academy of the Maldives.
Speaking to local media on Monday (March 25), 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 stated.
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.
“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,” Latheef stated.
Comments submitted by the United Nation agencies in the Maldives, Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM), and Attorney General are being considered and incorporated into the draft text.
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.
The bill was first sent to the Majlis (parliament) in 2006 and will replace the 1961 penal code.
The penal code bill is being forwarded to the parliament floor this upcoming week, according to local media.
False preaching regarding rape and fornication
The parliamentary committee slammed the “false preaching” of the Chair of Adhaalath Party’s Scholars Council Sheikh Ilyas Hussain over the bill earlier this week.
Sheikh Ilyas declared that the new penal code does not recognise fornication with mutual consent as an offence.
MP Nazim 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.
The existing penal code does not explicitly recognise “rape” as a crime, and cases are handled under provisions for sexual offences.