EC again changes tune to spark fresh debate over MP disqualifications

Elections Commission on Thursday again backtracked on its stand to annul the disqualifications of a dozen former government lawmakers who had been disqualified over the contentious anti-defection ruling.

Elections Commission in August last year had disqualified the lawmakers who were dismissed from the ruling party under the contentious Supreme Court anti-defection ruling and had even announced by-elections to replace them.

The commission in a statement said its members had reviewed its decision to disqualify the 12 lawmakers during a sit-down on Wednesday.

The members had decided that the Supreme Court ruling on anti-defection does not apply to the dozen MPs and annulled its original decision to disqualify them, the statement read.

However, the country's Supreme Court had later quashed the EC's decision over unsettled challenges filed by individual MPs.

However, during Thursday's hearings of two separate challenges by North-Machchangoalhi MP Abdulla Sinan and South-Thinadhoo MP Abdulla Ahmed lawyers representing the elections commission insisted that the anti-defection ruling would apply to both the lawmakers as they had been removed from the party registry after the ruling.

However, both the plaintiffs argued that they had asked the ruling party to remove them from the party registry days before the anti-defection ruling.

In response, elections commission said the official resignation of a member would come into effect after the member has been removed from the party registry.

Both the lawmakers had been removed from the ruling party registry after the Supreme Court's anti-defection ruling, elections commission added.

A verdict on both cases is expected during the next hearing which is yet to be scheduled.

The sudden change in stand came after the country's apex court had overturned the disqualifications of four lawmakers on Monday saying that they had resigned from the party months before its anti-defection ruling and could not be applied in retrospect by the Elections Commission.

The victory on the long drawn disqualifications was expected to set the precedent for the remaining eight lawmakers who had also been unseated over the contentious anti-defection ruling.

The verdict came following the opposition alliance's resounding victory in last month's presidential elections.