In a pivotal ruling, the High Court has adjudicated that it lacks the authority to issue a stay order on the 11-year prison sentence handed down to former President Abdulla Yameen in connection with the MMPRC corruption scandal. However, the Court did exercise its prerogative to order the postponement of the USD 5 million fine, a significant component of the verdict, pending further legal proceedings.
The Criminal Court’s landmark decision, delivered on December 25, pronounced Yameen guilty of bribery and money laundering in relation to the lease of V. Aarah through MMPRC. The consequential sentence of 11 years in prison and the substantial fine marked a significant chapter in the nation’s legal discourse.
Yameen responded by filing an appeal against the verdict on February 23, initiating a legal process that recently resumed following a prolonged hiatus owing to judges’ leave absences. The focus of the Thursday hearing centered on Yameen’s plea for a stay order to suspend the sentence.
Following meticulous deliberation, Justice Mohammed Saleem, a member of the three-judge bench, confirmed that the bench’s definitive decision would be conveyed in written form on Sunday. The subsequent ruling from the High Court divulged that, according to the Criminal Procedure Code and corresponding regulations, the court lacked the jurisdiction to halt the implementation of a lower court’s judgment when an appeal was in progress.
Moreover, the ruling underscored the separation of powers, emphasizing that the interpretation of laws and regulations lies within the domain of the parliament rather than the judiciary. It firmly asserted that altering or inferring provisions beyond what is explicitly outlined constitutes an unwarranted intrusion into the legislative realm.
However, a distinct decision emerged with regard to the deferment of the USD 5 million fine. Recognizing the potential for impeding the administration of justice, the High Court invoked its authority to temporarily delay the payment. Consequently, all government entities have been instructed to refrain from any actions aimed at retrieving the imposed fine. Additionally, any ongoing cases aimed at recovering the fine have been temporarily suspended.
The outcome of these legal developments has significant implications for Yameen’s political aspirations. His disqualification from contesting the September 9 presidential election under the PPM-PNC banner was triggered by the sentence and fine associated with the Aarah case. In a poignant moment during the appeal hearing, Yameen expressed his withdrawal from political discourse, stating his decision to relinquish any further engagement in political matters.
The deadline for the USD 5 million fine payment lapsed in June, prompting the Attorney General’s (AG) office to initiate a recovery suit in the Civil Court, adding a layer of complexity to the legal landscape.