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Amendment wrong, but no action that can be taken since parliament has revoked it: Supreme Court

Supreme Court has ruled today that the Parliament's amendment changing how it counts member total is unconstitutional. However, as the Articles raised for review by the AG has since been revoked by Parliament, there is no action left to be taken in the case.

Mariyath Mohamed
29 February 2024, MVT 11:05
Judge Dr Azmiralda Zahir.
Mariyath Mohamed
29 February 2024, MVT 11:05

The Supreme Court has ruled today that the amendment brought by Parliament to its regulations regarding the manner of counting the total number of parliamentarians contravene the Constitution.

The Attorney General's Office submitted a case to the Supreme Court seeking revocation of the amended articles in the Parliament regulations that bring this change in effect. However, the Parliament has since revoked those articles and moved the same stipulations to a different existing article in the regulations. This complicates the case, with the Supreme Court now deciding that while the amendment is wrong, the case submitted only concerns the Articles in which the amendment was previously included in.

The Supreme Court stated in its ruling that the Constitution has determined different majority requirements for the Parliament in the voting on different matters for an important cause. They said that this was done to ensure the engagement of higher representation of the people in deciding on critical matters.

They asserted that a parliament seat does not represent a single parliamentarian, but instead it represents thousands of constituents. The Parliament is, in effect, the voice of the people, the power of the people, the Supreme Court ruling said.

"...every seat in the Parliament represents an electoral constituency. There are thousands of citizens behind every seat. A member in a seat is the representative of the interests of thousands of citizens. This applies whether a member attends a sitting or does not, whether they participate in a vote or not. The members are trusted with a major obligation by the constituents. A major responsibility," the ruling reads.

The ruling said that due to this, the vacancy of a chair does not entirely prevent a constituency from being represented in parliament. The absence of a member in the chair may prevent a vote being cast in their name, but the existence of the the chair itself is a reminder of the thousands of citizens that the constituency represents, it stated.

Judge Dr Azmiralda Zahir said that the parliament is not facing any issues in obtaining quorum for holding sittings, pointing out that 80 members still remain in parliament. The ruling noted that this is sufficient to make up the maximum majority required for any issue, namely amendment of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court ruling declared that the Parliament did not have a reasonable justification to amend the manner of counting parliamentarian total. It said that even for daily proceedings, the parliament had more than the required majority of members.

The ruling went on to say that the new amendment achieved no purpose besides providing additional strength to politically motivated votes led by the party currently holding parliament majority.

The ruling cautioned that parliament members must prioritize the nation and citizens' interests, and must not act in self interest.

"Therefore, it is difficult for me to accept that the Parliament's decision was made with good intent," Judge Dr Azmiralda stated.

Main points in the Supreme Court ruling

- It is in contravention of the constitution to count the total number of parliamentarians without including vacated seats

- Article 71 of the Constitution does not allow for the exclusion of vacated chairs

- It is outside the boundaries of the parliamentary powers to change the manner of counting parliament member total

- As the amendment submitted for review has since been revoked by parliament, there is no action to be taken

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