The Supreme Court has set 25 February to hear a petition filed by the Attorney General challenging the constitutionality of recent amendments to the Parliament’s standing orders, which potentially eased the impeachment of the President and Vice-President. The announcement comes just a week after the apex court issued a temporary stay on the implementation of the controversial amendment.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s (AG) Office has confirmed a court notice has been received with the date of the first hearing.

“The hearing is scheduled for 25 February 2024 at 10:45 a.m.,” the media official said.

The government petitioned the Supreme Court on 28 January to revoke the impeachment amendment, arguing it is unconstitutional. The court’s determination on hearing the case was finalised and registered on the docket on 5 February. 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 earlier this week, Members of Parliament (MPs) rejected the Supreme Court’s stay order.

The contentious amendments to the Parliament’s standing orders, adopted last year, changed the way votes are counted for the dismissal of the nation’s leaders, specifically excluding vacant seats from the total tally required for a two-thirds majority. This modification effectively lowered the threshold needed for impeachment.

The Constitution mandates that two-thirds of all lawmakers must vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass, a rule that necessitated 58 votes out of the total 87 members of parliament. The amendment, however, reduced this requirement to 53 votes, accounting for the seven recent vacancies, when several legislators resigned to take posts in the executive. The current split in Parliament means that the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats combined have 56 votes.

Additional reporting by Andrew Richards