Court says article 16 ruling is correct, must be implemented

Panel makes changes to early retirement law

KUWAIT: The constitutional court yesterday said a ruling it issued last month declaring article 16 of the National Assembly charter as unconstitutional is correct and must be implemented without delay. In a new verdict, the court, whose rulings cannot be challenged, rejected an objection submitted by MP Waleed Al-Tabtabaei asking the court to suspend the implementation of its earlier ruling and subject it under legal revision.

The new verdict clearly means that the memberships of MPs Tabtabaei and Jamaan Al-Harbash must be revoked and by-election called to elect two members to replace them. This is the most likely scenario when the Assembly convenes for its regular session on Wednesday. The controversy began last summer when the court of cassation, whose rulings are final, sentenced Harbash and Tabtabaei and a dozen other opposition activists and former lawmakers to jail terms for storming the Assembly building in Nov 2011 following a protest.

The membership of the two lawmakers should have been revoked after they were convicted, but the Assembly decided in a vote to retain their membership on the basis of article 16 of its internal charter. A case was immediately filed at the constitutional court arguing that article 16 violated the constitution. The court agreed and scrapped the article and called for dealing with any consequences that may have resulted from using the article.

However, several opposition MPs said the court had exceeded its mandate by encroaching on the powers of the Assembly and insisted that the court cannot scrap the membership of the two lawmakers. Yesterday’s ruling is likely to end the legal controversy over the membership of Tabtabaei and Harbash, who have been living outside the country since the jail sentence was issued against them.

In another development, the Assembly’s financial and economic affairs committee yesterday made a number of changes to the controversial early retirement law, the head of the panel said. MP Salah Khorsheed said the committee agreed a proposed two percent deduction from the pension of Kuwaiti employees who opt for early retirement should not continue for life. Khorsheed said the committee said the panel decided that the deduction must stop at the age of 65 for men and 60 for women who retire five years ahead of the official retirement age. This has remained as the main stumbling block for the passage of the law in its second and final reading. Khorsheed said the law will be sent to the Assembly for voting on Wednesday.

By B Izzak