No legal obstacles to amend constitution amidst public health emergency: AG

No legal obstacles to amend constitution amidst public health emergency: AG

There are no legal obstacles to amend the constitution amidst a state of public health emergency, says Attorney General (AG) Ibrahim Riffath.

The AG made the statement in response to concerns raised by members of parliament.

On Monday, the People’s Majlis held the first reading of the ‘Local Council Elections Special Bill 2020’ alongside an amendment to the Constitution.

The bill seeks to delay the local council elections due to the public health emergency declared as a precautionary measure. This bill includes a clause stating that the current councillors will remain in position until the Local Council Elections 2020. To facilitate this, an amendment to the Constitution was submitted, which allows the current council officials to retain positions until an election is held and new officials take oath.

As such, during Monday's sitting Speaker Mohamed Nasheed stated that the constitution does not allow amendments to be made during a state of emergency. Hence, he questioned whether this amendment can be passed during the current circumstances, resulting in a heated debate amongst the MPs.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, AG Riffath stated that councils have a fixed term and can only be maintained after June 3rd if the constitution is amended.

Highlighting that the President has not declared a state of emergency as per article 253 of the constitution, the AG stated that there is no legal obstacle to amend the constitution.

Other MP's noted that the state of emergency described in article 253 of the constitution and the state of public health emergency described in article 33 of the public health act are two different things.

If the special bill is approved by parliament, elections commission officials are to resume work after authorities declare it safe and lift the state of health emergency.

Despite the delay, only those that have already applied can run. And those that were elected automatically, will assume office after the elections.

The local council elections were slated for April 4 but was delayed to April 18 over Covid-19 fears. However, authorities are working to delay it further given the state of public health emergency declared across the country, until 6th January 2021 at the latest.