The Parliament Secretariat has informed the Supreme Court that Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla has to preside over the no-confidence motion against Parliament Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and that no other member can preside over the session without amending the Parliament laws.
The main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) initiated the no-confidence motion against Nasheed on October 9, garnering support from 49 MDP MPs. Despite official notices sent on October 12, consecutive sessions scheduled to hear the motion were canceled due to Deputy Speaker Eva not attending the sessions due to illness. As per Parliament rules, the deputy speaker of Parliament is responsible for presiding over a session in which the impeachment of the Speaker is pending.
Frustrated with the delays, the MDP is now pursuing legal action, seeking Supreme Court intervention to expedite proceedings. In a petition submitted to the Supreme Court, MDP seeks a ruling that in accordance with Rule 205 (e) of the Parliament's Rules of Procedure, the Parliament is obligated to adhere to Rule 44 in case of the Deputy Speaker's absence from presiding over a sitting with a pending impeachment motion.
In addition, while Rule 205 (d) states that if an impeachment motion has been moved against the Speaker, any other matter moved by the parliament at that time may be debated or decided only after a decision has been made on the impeachment motion, MDP has also requested that the Parliament is not allowed to schedule any other session until after deciding on the motion to remove the Speaker from office.
In the first hearing held today, the judges posed questions to the Counsel General of the Parliament, Fathimath Filza. Justice Husnu-al-Suood inquired from the Counsel General what the general practice is in other countries when the deputy speaker of Parliament cannot preside over a no-confidence motion. In response, Filza said that no arrangements exist for anyone to preside over such a session.
However, while the constitution states that the Speaker cannot preside over his no-confidence motion, the Parliament rules require the Deputy Speaker to preside over the session due to its critical nature, said Filza.
“Therefore, because of the importance given to the issue, the most key officer in the parliament will preside over such a session,” Filza said.
Filza said a parliamentary body cannot interpret the meaning of general procedure in the rules of parliament when it is clear from the law that a certain person should preside over a special session. At that point, Justice Suood asked Filza what the solution would be if the Parliament faced a deadlock if the Deputy Speaker intentionally failed to attend sessions. In response, Filza said the next option would be to amend the Parliament rules.
Filza added that the no-confidence motion against the Speaker of Parliament has not yet been moved in the Parliament floor. This means there is no obstruction to scheduling other Parliament sessions, she explained. She stressed that a session can be held even now to amend the Parliament rules to find a solution to the matter.
In contrast, the Counsel General of the Attorney General's Office, Fathmath Haleem, who represented the parliament, disputed the Parliament's administrative and legal team's views. The state urged the court to declare that the interpretation of the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament which causes a parliamentary deadlock, was incorrect.
The Supreme Court bench consisted of Justices Mahaz Ali Zahir, Dr. Azmiralda Zahir, Justice Husnu-al-Suood, Justice Ali Rasheed Hussain, and Justice Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim.