Lawmaker submits resolution seeking Supreme Court’s counsel on term extension

A pedestrian walks past the Supreme Court. (File Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

A MDP lawmaker, on Wednesday, submitted a resolution seeks legal counsel from the Supreme Court regarding the constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councilors.

The resolution was submitted to the Parliament by Hanimaadhoo MP Abdul Gafoor Moosa at the parliamentary sitting on Wednesday afternoon.

The term of incumbent councilors set to expire on June 3, and the Parliament has yet to produce a remedy to the legal vacuum it will plunge the country into.

The government has submitted a constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent councilors, designed to work alongside a sunset law to postpone the local council elections as late as January 6 next year which was passed in late April.

However, MDP, which enjoys a supermajority in the Parliament, is deeply divided over the constitutional amendment.

Both the Attorney General and the Parliament’s Counsel General have made their legal opinions known regarding the subject.  They have stated that stated that a general law cannot be used to override a provision of the Constitution, and that the only solution was to amend the Constitution.

However, the Parliament Speaker, former President Mohamed Nasheed said on Wednesday parliamentarians found it difficult to accept the legal opinion of the Attorney General and the Counsel General. And that the next course of action was to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court.

Abdul Gafoor submitted his resolution under Article 95 of the Constitution. It says that the Parliament was unable to reach a unanimous agreement that a constitutional amendment to extend the term of incumbent island councilors, atoll councilors and city councilors was the only solution to the legal vacuum which the country will face once the term of the councilors expire until new councilors are elected.

Article 95 establishes that the Parliament may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court to seek its opinion regarding important questions of law, including questions over the interpretation of the Constitution or the validity of any statute.

It also states that the Supreme Court is required to answer the questions, and provide the answers to the Parliament along with the reasons for the answers, and that the opinion of the court is required to be pronounced in like manner as in case of a judgment on appeal.

Abdul Gafoor’s resolution calls to seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on remedying the legal vacuum which will be in place until the situation in the country allows holding an election, and the legal issues which may arise from allowing councilors to remain in power.

Abdul Gafoor said that seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court will ensure all the branches of the State are consulted with on the issue.

MDP parliamentary group had passed a three-line whip to vote in support of the constitutional amendment on Tuesday. However several parliamentarians have openly stated that they will not comply with the whip, arguing that the coronavirus outbreak in the country minimized the room for debate among the people regarding the people, and that making a constitutional amendment without providing room for debate went against the spirit of the Constitution.