The Constitutional Council
The Constitutional Council is one of the most important and powerful bodies within the Islamic Republic of Iran’s fabric of governance. The Council’s constitutional mandates include interpretation of the Constitution, supervision of elections (Art. 99 says: The Council has the responsibility of supervising the elections of the Assembly of Experts for Leadership, the President of the Republic, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the direct recourse to popular opinion and referenda) and the vetting of legislation passed by the country’s Parliament.
The Council is comprised of twelve members: Six Faqihs and six jurists. The Faqihs (Islamic jurists) are appointed by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, and the jurists are nominated by the head of the Judiciary Branch and confirmed by Parliament. According to Article 91 of the Constitution, the members are elected to serve for a period of six years.
Article 94 of the Constitution urges the Parliament to refer all its legislation to the Constitutional Council. The law watchdog body would have a maximum of ten days from its receipt to ensure its compliance with Islamic tenets as well as the Constitution. If a majority of the Council (both Faqihs and jurists) finds a piece of legislation at variance with the Constitution and the standards of Islamic law, then the Council may strike it down or return it with revisions to the parliament for reconsideration. Otherwise the legislation will be deemed enforceable.
To be specific, Iran’s Parliament and its legislation lack credibility without the constitutional court and its approval, and the Parliament does not hold any legal status if there is no Constitutional Council in existence, except for the purpose of approving the credentials of its members and the election of the jurists on the Council.
It is worth noting that a national referendum was held with the question "Islamic Republic, yes or no" in March 1979. Some 98.2 percent of the voters said "yes." Following this victory, the Iranian Constitution of 1906 was declared invalid and a new constitution for an Islamic Republic was drafted and ratified by a referendum during the first week of December the same year.
The Constitutional Council Research Institute was established in 2000. It serves as an interdisciplinary law center and is working as a research center under the auspices of the Constitutional Council.
Research and other activities of the Institute have been supported by prestigious law faculties across the country. In addition, the Institute organizes conferences, symposia, and forums on the topic of constitutional and public law as part of its continued efforts to promote the rule of law and Constitutional values, principles and rights.
The research center is primarily tasked with doing research and explaining the Council’s arguments, supporting its points of view about parliamentary decisions and other resolutions. The institute provides the Council with legal approaches to the challenges it may face. By expanding on the Constitution’s articles, the research center helps improve the work of the Council and its efficiency.