AMMAN — Deputies on Sunday began deliberations over the draft law governing the projected constitutional court, endorsing five of its 38 articles.

During Sunday’s session, a majority of MPs voted to pass Article 1 of the legislation as worded by the former government and approved by the Legal Committee, under which the 2012 constitutional court law will go into effect 120 days after its publication in the Official Gazette.

Some deputies called for moving forward the law’s effective date from four months to one month after its publication, with some citing Article 93 of the Constitution and others dwelling on the need to speed up the political reform process.

In response to questions from deputies, Minister of Justice Khalifah Suleiman said he did not know why the former government included this provision but it did not contradict the Constitution.

Paragraph B of Article 93 of the Constitution reads: "A law shall come into force after its promulgation by the King and the lapse of 30 days from the date of its publication in the Official Gazette unless it is specifically provided in that law that it shall come into force on any other date."

Balqa Deputy Abdullah Ensour noted that if the four-month period was reduced to one month, the Higher Council for the Interpretation of the Constitution (HCIC) would be automatically dissolved, leaving a "legislative vacuum".

Agreeing with Ensour, Amman MP Mamdouh Abbadi noted that "there is no need to be hasty", adding that since the 1930s, the HCIC has only looked into around 50 petitions.

A heated argument erupted among MPs over Article 4 of the draft law, concerning the jurisdiction of the projected court.

As worded by the former government and approved by the Legal Committee, the constitutional court will monitor the constitutionality of laws and regulations in force and interpret provisions of the Constitution when requested.

Amman deputies Khalil Atiyyeh and Mohammad Halaiqa proposed that the court also rule on disputes over provisions of the Constitution, but this request was rejected by an overwhelming majority of MPs.

Head of the Legal Committee Mahmoud Kharabsheh (Balqa, 1st District) and Minister of Political Development Nufan Ajarmeh, who is also a constitutional expert, noted that the court’s mandate is prescribed in Article 59 of the Constitution and deputies could not change it.

The article in question states that “the Constitutional Court shall monitor the constitutionality of laws and regulations in force and issue its judgments in the name of the King… The constitutional court has the right to interpret the provisions of the Constitution if requested, either by virtue of a decision of the Council of Ministers or by a resolution taken by the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies passed by an absolute majority”.

A similar disagreement arose over Article 5, which stipulates that the president and members of the constitutional court be appointed by Royal Decree for non-renewable six-year terms.

Zarqa Deputy Ali Khalayleh proposed that the Lower House speaker, the Senate president, the prime minister and the president of the Higher Judicial Council be tasked with nominating a list of candidates for the court from which the King would choose.

Emphasising that his proposal was not meant to limit the constitutional powers of the King, he argued that such a provision would reduce the executive authority's "encroachment" on other branches of government.

Khalayleh's proposal was opposed by several deputies who noted that Article 58 of the Constitution already stipulates that the court’s members be appointed by the King.

"Article 58 does not prevent the nomination of names, with the final decision made by the King," Khalayleh countered.

Kharabsheh and Deputy Saleh Lozi (Amman, 5th District), both lawyers, interpreted the constitutional provision as clearly stating that it is the King and only the King who appoints the court's members.

"Khalayleh's proposal is unconstitutional and I am afraid that, if it were endorsed by deputies, the first law whose constitutionality the projected court would object to would be its own law," said Jerash MP Wafaa Bani Mustafa, who is also a lawyer.

Convinced, Khalayleh withdrew his proposal.