Maldives AG insists on need to stop parliament boycott

Maldives' attorney general's (AG) office on Monday told the Supreme Court the stressing need to penalize lawmakers for boycotting parliament sittings.

During the first hearing in the motion filed by the opposition to repeal the newly ratified amendment to the Judges Act carefully scripted to remove the two Supreme Court judges arrested under the state of emergency over the alleged plot to overthrow the government, the state attorney responded to the argument by the opposition insisting that half the total membership of the parliament was not needed to pass the amendment as it does not require the compliance of every citizen.

On that note, the state attorney noted that when the amendment was passed, the opposition lawmakers had boycotted the sitting which was in violation of the parliament rules of procedure.

The state attorney further said the lawmakers with impunity had the power to boycott sittings to send the legislative body into a deadlock.

In response the plaintiffs' lawyer argued that the lawmakers had the constitution right to protest pointing out that the opposition lawmakers had boycotted the parliament in protest.

The top court bench then had questioned the state attorney over the fact that the amendment had not specified the exact nature of a criminal offence under which a judge would be automatically removed.

The state attorney responded by insisting that there was no need to specify offences as once a judge is convicted of a criminal offence, he or she would lose the respect of the public and would give the public the grounds to question any rulings delivered.

The apex court is expected to deliver a verdict on the case during the next hearing.

The amendment to Judges Act submitted ruling party deputy leader and Fonadhoo lawmaker Abdul Raheem Abdulla was passed by 38 votes during Tuesday's sitting amid the continued boycott by opposition lawmakers.

According to the amendment, judges convicted of a criminal offence would be automatically removed from office.

The amendment said a judge convicted of a criminal offence would be removed with immediate effect after the sentence. The amendment was also designed to bypass the constitutional article on removal of judges arguing that it does not relate to the conduct of judges.

The amendment said the judicial service commission (JSC) must suspend the judge with pay following his or her arrest. However, once the judge is formally charged he or she would cease to receive pay while he or she would be immediately removed from office if convicted

The ruling party in its amendment has also limited the time for appeal. A convicted judge must file the first appeal within 10 days while first appellate court is given 30 days to arrive at a sentence. The same time frame has been afforded to the Supreme Court as the last stage of appeal.

"The reason for proposing such an amendment is to ensure such an incident does not occur and those responsible are held properly accountable for their actions," Abdul-Raheem said adding, "while the top court judges were in association of former presidents and others to overthrow the government we cannot take legal action against them under the current law."