Egypt's legal community divided over HCC ruling rejecting Morsi's decree

Zeinab El Gundy , Wednesday 11 Jul 2012

Legal and constitutional experts split over whether it is within High Constitutional Court mandate to disregard presidential decree calling parliament to reconvene

parliament building
An Egyptian police officer, right, guards outside the parliament building in Cairo (Photo: AP)

Egypt’s High Constitutional Court’s (HCC) decision Tuesday to reject President Mohamed Morsi’s decree reinstating parliament on the grounds that it failed to offer a precise time frame for parliamentary re-elections has sparked debate amongst legal and constitutional experts.

Celebrated lawyer and constitutional expert Essam El-Islamobali told Al-Ahram Arabic language news website that the HCC’s most recent verdict was "natural" and that there was "nothing wrong with it." He added that it would be unlikely that the president would defy the court’s decision.

Leading member of the liberal Wafd Party and legal expert Bahaa Abu Shouka concurred, saying the president should respect the HCC ruling.

Shouka added that Morsi must not further flout the HCC’s judgment by following the advice of key parliamentarians, like Legislative Affairs Committee head Mahmoud El-Khodari who called for a national referendum, Tuesday, to decide whether the parliament should be disbanded or not.

Cairo University law professor Tharwat Badawy disagreed: "This court ruling is completely invalid. Presidential decrees exercise the executive power which the court should not intervene in, this has never happened before neither in Egypt or France or any country."

Dr. Mahmoud Kabish, dean of Cairo University’s Faculty of Law, also maintained that the ruling was not within the HCC’s mandate. Kabish claimed that rejecting the presidential decree is an administrative decision not a constitutional one.

However, he added, the initial ruling disbanding parliament should still be respected as "we are not living in a dictatorship which does not obey or respect the country's laws and the judiciary."

Badawy argued that the ruling may have a political motive and that it was expected from a court that "includes remnants of the old regime."

Reformist judge Zakaria Abdel-Aziz agreed, commenting that many of the HCC rulings reflect the current political situation more than they do Egyptian law.  

The former head of the Judges' Club added that there are no regulations for choosing HCC members and criticised some of the court’s judges including Tahani El-Gabali and former head Farouk Sultan.

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