The Supreme Court has directed the Elections Commission (EC) to accept the candidature of Aishath Afnaan Ali, an independent candidate contesting in the upcoming parliamentary elections. The decision was made in an appeal case filed by Ali, challenging the EC’s initial refusal to validate her candidacy.

Ali, who is contesting as an independent candidate backed by the People’s National Front (PNF)—a party spearheaded by former President Abdul Yameen Abdul Gayoom and currently in the registration process—had submitted her nomination papers for the Keyodhoo seat. The EC had rejected her nomination papers, citing the absence of criminal and financial records of her electoral agent.

However, the apex court’s ruling on Thursday contradicted the EC’s assertion. It stated that Ali’s nomination papers did indeed include the required documents, duly sealed by the Family Court. The verdict suggested an oversight on the EC’s part in verifying the documents’ orderliness.

The court further noted that the EC had ample opportunity to inform the candidate of any issues with the nomination papers and verify the documentation’s completeness before declaring her nomination invalid. The unanimous decision was delivered by a bench comprising three justices: Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir, who presided over the bench, and Justices Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Ali Rasheed Hussain.

While the EC has been ordered to allow Ali to contest the election, other candidates vying for the Keyodhoo seat include Mohamed Niusham from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), Abdul Rauf Ibrahim from the ruling People’s National Congress (PNC), and Adam Abdul Latheef of The Democrats.

This case sets a precedent as the first instance where the apex court has overruled an EC decision to invalidate the candidature of a person contesting in an election. On Thursday, the EC pushed back the parliamentary polls to 21 April, which was previously scheduled for 17 March. The postponement followed President Mohamed Muizzu’s signing into law a bill to amend the Elections (General) Act.