The Supreme Court has advanced the date to commence hearing arguments on the constitutionality of the Parliament’s recent amendments to its Standing Orders, which effectively made it easier for the legislative body to impeach the President and Vice-President.

The hearing, originally set for 25 February, has now been rescheduled to 21 February.

The Supreme Court challenge, filed by the Attorney General, stems from a revision made last year, which proposed that the count of Members of Parliament (MPs) would exclude any vacant constituencies. This amendment gained prominence after seven MPs resigned from their parliamentary seats to assume positions within the new administration, causing the total active membership of the parliament to decrease from 87 to 80. 

Consequently, this reduction impacted the quorum required for parliament proceedings. It also ignited a legal and political debate over the constitutionality and practicality of such changes as it gives the opposition, that currently holds an absolute majority, to easily impeach the President and Vice-President.

The petition claims that the wording used in three specific articles added to Article 49 of the Parliament’s Standing Orders directly conflicts with Article 71 of the Constitution. 

On 8 February, a majority of the five-judge bench of the court issued an order to revert to the previous practice of counting all seats, irrespective of vacancies, until a final determination is made on the constitutionality of the amendment.

During a subsequent floor vote last week, Members of Parliament (MPs) rejected the Supreme Court’s stay order.

However, the Parliament General Committee later removed the disputed articles from the Standing Orders. It then added a similar provision into Article 242, which specifies that for the purpose of roll calls and parliamentary quorums, the total strength of parliament will exclude vacant seats if a by-election cannot be held due to proximity to general elections. More specifically, if a seat becomes vacant less than six months before a scheduled general election, it will not be counted in the total number of MPs for parliamentary roll calls.