The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that lawmakers who resign or are expelled from the political parties they represented at the time of election, or switch to another party, will lose their seats in parliament.
The verdict passed unanimously by the three judges of the Supreme Court on the constitutional case submitted by Attorney General Mohamed Anil read that lawmakers that resign from their political party, are expelled from their political party, or sign into another political party will lose their seats in parliament effective immediately. In such cases, the Elections Commission is mandated to hold a by-election for the constituency represented by the ousted lawmaker.
According to the verdict, the policies specified in this ruling will stand until the parliament passes an Anti-Defection Law, which the court stressed is an imperative legislation that needs to be created.
The Supreme Court stated that it reached the verdict under Subject 142 of the Constitution, by the policies of Islamic Shariah and using their authority as the top body of judiciary in the hierarchy.
Prior to the verdict reading, Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed presiding over the case noted that being accorded the right for lawmakers to change their political parties as they please after succeeding their seats makes them vulnerable to political and financial influence, which leads to prioritising self-interests over that of the people. The Chief Justice declared that it could weaken the democracy, independence and sovereignty of the Maldives, hindering the upholding of law and order.
The Chief Justice further stated that losing their seat provides the chance for the people to hold lawmakers accountable. He also highlighted that despite losing their seats, ousted lawmakers have the right to run for the constituency again in the by-election.
Another point raised by Chief Justice Saeed is that lawmakers changing their political parties violates the objectives of the people who voted to elect them, which is not recognised by modern democratic principles. Noting that other countries take action to prevent such occurrences, he cited nations such as India and Singapore as examples.
Moreover, Chief Justice Saeed declared that lawmakers losing their seats over changing political parties is unseen in western and European countries as lawmakers do not switch their loyalties as a rule. He pointed out that should a lawmaker decide to do so in such countries, it is the norm for the lawmaker to voluntarily resign their seat.
In additional, the Chief Justice proclaimed that voting against the party’s whip line in parliament will not oust the lawmaker by default. However, the political party to which they are registered holds the authority to take disciplinary action against the lawmaker in such cases.
The Supreme Court issued the verdict in the wake of ten lawmakers of ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) resigning from the ruling party over the latest motion of no confidence submitted by the opposition against Parliament Speaker Abdulla Maseeh. However, PPM has refused to process the resignations of some lawmakers, stating that they are currently under investigation by PPM over certain issues such as disciplinary cases. The lawmakers who have resigned from PPM have described the situation as the ruling party “hijacking” its members.
The constitutional case seeking to oust lawmakers for changing parties was submitted by the government as an ex parte motion without a defendant. The top court issued the verdict without providing the opportunity for main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and over 30 lawmakers that filed to intervene in the case.