Supreme Court rules Yauqoob has not lost his parliamentary seat

Dhaandhoo MP Yauqoob Abdulla. (Photo/People's Majlis)

The Supreme Court made its decision in a case lodged with the court challenging the legitimacy of Dhaandhoo MP Yauqoob Abdulla's parliamentary seat on Monday, ruling that the parliamentarian has not lost his parliamentary seat.

Questions over the legitimacy of Yauqoob’s parliamentary seat arose after he accepted an appointment to the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of the Maldives (ICAM), despite a provision on the Maldivian Constitution which prohibits parliamentarians from holding office in an independent commission or an independent office.

Yauqoob had resigned shortly after, when the move sparked controversy.

The constitutional petition over the issue was lodged with the Supreme Court by former Civil Court judge Mohamed Haleem and Assad Shareef – a member of the team of legal representatives for Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and People’s National Congress (PNC).

They argued that it is a qualification of a parliamentarian that they do not hold office in an independent commission or independent office, and that Yauqoob therefore lost his qualification the moment he took office as a member of the council of ICAM, and should therefore lose his parliamentary seat.

They filed the petition citing violation of Article 73 of the Constitution, which declares the qualification of parliamentarians. Article 73 (c) declares grounds for immediate disqualification, while Article 73 (d) declares offices parliamentarians shall not continue to hold unless stated otherwise in the Constitution.

The case was overseen by a bench of five justices; Justice Husnu Al Suood – who chaired over the bench, Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir, Justice Aisha Shujune, Justice Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, and Justice Ali Rasheed Hussain.

The bench concurred with Suood’s judgment in the case.

The detailed ruling explains the difference between state office, professional bodies, and independent commissions.

The Supreme Court defined professional bodies as organizations formed by a group of people in a learned occupation with the purpose of maintaining control or oversight of the practice of the occupation in order to maintain quality and professionalism of those involved in the occupation.

 The court said that while some professional bodies are granted legal authority and support from the state, they cannot be considered state institutions. The court cited the Bar Council as an example.

The court said that the ICAM, same as the Bar Council, is not a state institution, and that there is therefore no reason why membership of the council of ICAM, that Yauqoob assumed, should be considered a state office, or holding office in an independent commission or independent office.

“…There are no grounds to establish that membership of the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Maldives is a state office as declared under Article 73 (d) (8) of the Constitution or an independent commission or an independent office as declared under Article 73 (d) (3) of the Constitution,” said the Supreme Court in its ruling.

The Supreme Court also said that there are no legal standards to establish that parliamentarians will be disqualified, even if they engage in any of the acts declared under Article 73 (d).

The Supreme Court said that engaging in an act prohibited under the Constitution will nullify the act in question, and that given the Constitutional does not explicitly declare further consequences beyond nullification, the court declaring a consequence will equate to adding provisions to the Constitution that do not exist.

The Supreme Court said it does not have the authority to make additions or omissions to the Constitution, and that the authority lies with the Parliament.

 The court also said minutes of meetings of the Parliament show that the intention of those who drafted the Constitution wasn’t to disqualify parliamentarians for engaging in acts declared on Article 73 (d), but to prevent parliamentarians from serving in any other office.

The Supreme Court ruled that holding an office parliamentarians are prohibited from is therefore not grounds for disqualification, and that the office Yauqoob assumed wasn’t one prohibited for parliamentarians under the Constitution.