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MPs call for further constitutional amendments

By Khaled Neimat - Sep 07,2014 - Last updated at Sep 07,2014

AMMAN — Some MPs on Sunday called for new constitutional amendments to grant His Majesty King Abdullah exclusive authority to appoint the head of the Higher Judicial Council.

The proposal was presented during the Lower House session on Sunday, as MPs continued their deliberations over the draft independence of the judiciary law. 

The lawmakers engaged in a lengthy debate over the appointment of the president of the Court of Cassation, who also heads the judicial authority. 

Some MPs called for new constitutional amendments to strip the government of its constitutional right to name the president and refer the nomination to the King for his approval.

“This amendment is very important to ensure further separation of powers and is in line with the Constitution,” former Lower House speaker, Abdul Hadi Majali said.

It is better to give this right exclusively to the King, rather than leaving it in the hands of the government to propose a name, Majali added. 

He referred to the recently endorsed constitutional amendments granting the King the sole power to appoint the army and intelligence chiefs. 

Under this formula, Majali said, it is better to stipulate, temporarily, in this bill that the oldest judge in the Court of Cassation becomes its president, upon the King’s approval, until the relevant constitutional amendments are formulated.

Another mechanism, proposed by MP Ali Khalaileh (Zarqa, 2nd District), entails the selection of three names by the Higher Judicial Council, which will be submitted to the King who will approve one of them as president of Court of Cassation.

Meanwhile, MP Yihya Saud (Amman, 2nd District) suggested that the president of the Court of Cassation should have worked as a judge for a minimum of 15 years and as a lawyer for at least 10 years.

In another provision of the draft, MPs decided to increase the minimum age of judges from 27 to 30 years, arguing that this would be sufficient experience for anyone who wishes to become a judge.    

They decided to exclude those who are currently enrolled in the Future Judges Programme.

The decision was reached after MP Qassim Bani Hani (Irbid, 1st District) presented a proposal urging his peers to exclude this category as they were students in this programme prior to endorsement of the draft law, which is expected within the next few weeks.  

Under this new amendment, Jordanians with dual nationality will not be allowed to become judges under any circumstances, as the MPs approved a provision stipulating that only citizens can hold this position.   

This is the third Lower House session devoted to deliberations over this bill, which includes 52 provisions.

The MPs will continue their discussion of the draft at their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday.

They are still in disagreement over Article 4, which was endorsed last Sunday and dealt with the formation of the council, as some MPs oppose having four elected members.

The new method ends decades of appointing leading judges to these high-ranking judicial positions by Royal Decree upon government recommendation.

The mechanism would entail adding four seats to the council whose members are elected from among the judges.

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