The Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay on the implementation of controversial amendments to the parliament’s Standing Orders that potentially ease the process for removing the President or Vice-President from office. 

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 ruling 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 posts in the executive.

The government petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke this amendment, arguing it is unconstitutional. A majority of the five-judge bench concurred with this view, issuing an 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.

This 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.