The Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Aslam, has expressed concern over the Supreme Court’s interim order to stay the implementation of amendments to the articles relating to the impeachment of the President or Vice-President. The Speaker said that Parliament should deliberate on a course of action on the apex court’s order.

“Therefore, regarding the court order that has now been issued, we are concerned that this court order has been issued to Parliament without [fully] considering the matter and without determining whether it is unconstitutional or not… Therefore, I open the opportunity to the members of Parliament to determine how to proceed in this matter,” Aslam said.

The contentious amendments, introduced last year, sought to change 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, a move that could benefit the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) and its allies.

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 up portfolios in the executive.

Attorney General Ahmed Usham had petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke this amendment, arguing it as unconstitutional, with a majority of the five-judge bench agreeing with this view and issuing the interim order to revert to the previous practice of counting all seats, irrespective of vacancies, until a final decision is made. Justices Azmiralda Zahir, Husnu Suood, and Mahaz Ali Zahir, who supported the interim order, emphasised the need to uphold public interest in this matter.

However, the decision was not unanimous, with justices Aisha Shujoon Mohamed and Dr Mohamed Ibrahim dissenting. They argued that the immediate need for an interim order was not evident, pointing out the legislative majority’s capability to pass such motions was not currently at risk, and criticised the timing of the government’s legal challenge as delayed.

Speaker Aslam, in reference to the stay order, said that the Supreme Court order will be followed until the parliament decides on the matter; leading to some Members of Parliament (MPs) — from the MDP and Democrats — expressing their dissatisfaction with his decision to include vacated seats in determining the total number of the chamber.

One administration aligned MP highlighted that a case pending at the Supreme Court, which adjudicates constitutional matters, cannot be debated in parliament.

The intervention by the Supreme Court halts the amendment’s application, maintaining the status quo until a comprehensive legal examination determines the constitutionality of the contested changes.