Maldives top court upholds anti-defection law

Maldives top court on Tuesday found no grounds to void the anti-defection law despite admitting that the parliament had not met the required number of lawmakers to pass the contentious law.

The government controlled parliament in March had passed the anti-defection law largely devised to disqualify a dozen former government lawmakers.

The draft law was submitted in the wake of a top court stay order the relevant institutions to hold off on the reinstatement of a dozen opposition lawmakers disqualified over an earlier anti-defection ruling.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen rebel government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

After the government controlled parliament had voted to accept the draft law, the parliamentary committee had revised it to make it effective from July 13, 2017 - the same day the top court had issued its original anti-defection ruling.

The law was passed by a mere 36 votes amid the continued boycott by opposition lawmakers.

Three top opposition lawmakers had filed a challenge at the Supreme Court citing a lack of quorum to pass the law.

Top court in its verdict agreed that the parliament had lacked the necessary number of lawmakers to pass the law but said it was because of a compelling circumstance and therefore was not sufficient to repeal the law.

According to the new law, lawmakers elected on party tickets would lose their respective seats if they quit, change or are dismissed from the party. However, the law would not apply to independent members if they sign for a particular party.

The law also does not apply to lawmakers for violating party whip-lines or are penalized by a party for disciplinary violations.