Update on the Current Situation in the Maldives (26/02/2018): Advisory Opinion Issued to the Parliament by the Supreme Court Today

Advisory Opinion Issued to the Parliament by the Supreme Court Today

The Supreme Court today issued an advisory opinion to the Parliament upon their request. The Parliament asked the Supreme Court to issue the opinion in relation to questions arising as to what quorum was necessary when it convened at its Second Special Session on 20 February 2018, to approve and extend the declaration of a State of Emergency issued on 5 February 2018 and its subsequent amendments. The Parliament is empowered to seek such advisory opinions by Article 95 of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives.

The Supreme Court decided that the Parliamentary quorum needed at the sitting in question was 25% of the total membership of Parliament, as per Article 86 of the Constitution. Though Article 87(b) creates an exception to this rule for matters requiring compliance by citizens, the Supreme Court decided that Article 87(b) did not apply.

The Supreme Court decided the question raised, in light of Section 38 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, which elaborates on Article 87 (b) and defines matters requiring compliance by the citizens as follows:

(a) Voting on a Bill (Statute) that obliges the citizens to obey in a certain manner;
(b) Voting on a Bill (Statute) that imposes the citizens to act upon in a particular manner or not;
(c) Voting on a Bill (Statute) that requires citizens to spend any money;
(d) Voting on a Bill (Statute) that imposes taxes on citizens;
(e) Voting on a Bill (Statute) that holds a citizen liable depending on the commission of an act or not; or
(f) Voting on a Bill (Statute) regarding personal liability of citizens.

The Supreme Court reaffirmed that Article 87(b) of the Constitution was not applicable, and that it is not constitutionally necessary for more than half of the total membership of the Parliament to be present at the sitting. As the Quorum stated in Article 86 of the Constitution was met during the Special Session of the Parliament, the Decision made on the Special Session held on 20th February 2018 at the Parliament, assenting the Decree declaring State of Emergency and extending the Decree by 30 days was valid.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, on 5 February 2018, declared a State of Emergency by Presidential Decree No. 2018/3, under Article 253 of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives.

As per the Presidential Decree, the State of Emergency was enforced in order to protect the peace and wellbeing of all citizens, and the country, and to facilitate investigations following the events that unfolded in relation to the Supreme Court Order No. SC-SJ/01/2018, issued on 1 February 2018, which resulted in the disruption of the functions of the executive power and the State institutions vested with specific mandates under the Constitution, the infringement of national security and public interest, and if implemented, would potentially lead to an undermining of the supremacy of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives.

Despite the declaration of the state of emergency, there will be no enforcement of a curfew; and general movements, services and businesses will not be affected.