News ID: 233
Publish Date: 18 July 2023

12 Guardians of Sharia and Law

On a hot June at morning time, we arrived at the entrance gate and waited for necessary arrangements for our entry. Several guards guide and inspect visitors.

12 Guardians of Sharia and Law

Our wait for entry is a bit longer than expected, during which people of all professions enter. Some enter by showing their identification card, while others have come by mistake. Most of them have personal problems and want to convey their grievances to the government in some way. The guards kindly tell them that they have come to the wrong place and guide them to where they should go.

A young cleric is also standing in the waiting room. Sometimes he talks on his mobile phone and sometimes with the guards. From his words, it is clear that he has come from a county and has come to the Constitutional Council to find out the reason for not being approved in the previous parliamentary election.

The Constitutional Council is responsible for examining the qualifications of parliamentary and presidential candidates. The qualifications of presidential hopefuls are examined in Tehran and by 12 main members of the council, but the competence of thousands of parliamentary candidates is mostly examined by the representatives of the Constitutional Council in various counties.

Gradually, some young people, boys and girls, arrive. They are students and are supposed to participate in one of the Constitutional Council's sessions for the first time and closely see how it works. A staff member of the public relations office comes and takes me and the newspaper photographer inside.

A historic goal

Today is the anniversary of the formation of the Constitutional Council. An institution that began its work on July 17, 1980, although its historical background dates back to the Qajar era and the Constitutional Revolution. In that period and with the efforts of Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri, an institution with similar duties was formed as the second supplement to the Constitution. According to this supplement, 5 religious scholars were supposed to oversee the legal decisions and measure them against Islamic principles. Of course, this institution almost never really fulfilled its duties at the time.

With the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri's goal was incorporated into a more coherent and advanced structure called the Constitutional Council and included in the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In articles 93, 94, 98, and 99 of the Constitution, the duties and powers of the council are stipulated.

The Constitutional Council consists of 12 members, 6 of whom are religious scholars who are directly appointed by the Leader, and 6 lawyers who are proposed by the Judiciary chief and if they win the votes of parliamentarians, they will become members of the council.

Regular meetings

We go to one of the council meeting halls. Students also come. Mr. Basiri, the head of the council's public relations office, and Mr. Fattahi, the deputy head of the council's research center, join us and explain the council's function and process of its working. Many people think that the Constitutional Council's only duty is to examine the qualifications of candidates for parliament, president, and Assembly of Experts. But its main and routine task is to review parliamentary laws and compare them with Islamic principles and the Constitution.

When a law is passed by the parliament it is sent to the Constitutional Council with the signature of the parliament's speaker. It first goes to the council's research center. The research center is composed of several specialized departments. The law is carefully and thoroughly examined in the relevant departments. From the primary drafters of the law to stakeholders and experts related to its content, various aspects of it are discussed and scrutinized from a religious and constitutional perspective. Supporters and critics of the law are invited, and their opinions are also heard. Finally, the research center prepares a detailed technical report for the members of the Constitutional Council.

"Oh! I can't go to America for Christmas anymore!"

At 11:30 am, it is announced that we can go to the main hall of the council, where 12 Islamic and law experts are busy discussing one of the parliament's decisions. We enter the hall calmly, a high-ceilinged hall where the council members are gathered around. Ayatollah Jannati sits at the head of the session, as the council's secretary. 

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati can be considered the living history of the Constitutional Council. He has been a member of the council as a jurist since its first formation, and he has been its secretary since 1992. In 2020, he was sanctioned by the US government for allegedly undermining free elections. He finds the sanctions ridiculous and has joked about them, saying, "Oh! I can't go to America for Christmas anymore!"

Ayatollah Jannati is a revolutionary cleric and has a stubborn character in this regard. Nevertheless, he has a sense of humor. He is 93 years old and a few years ago I saw him up close in the marches celebrating the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution’s victory. Although he had a cane in his hand, he walked quickly. Of course, he doesn't have that speed anymore. His age has become a source of humor. I heard from someone close to him that he doesn't have a problem with these jokes and even laughs when he hears them.

Jurists with tablets

Students sit in the row behind the council members. After a few minutes, the council continues its discussions. The topic is about the regulation of housing and land market and also house renting. Three jurists with tablets in front of them lead the discussion. Several cameras mounted on the walls record the sessions. Abolhasani, a handsome young man sitting at the bottom of the session, acts as the secretary. He has several laptops in front of him. He reads out the clauses one by one, and members express their opinions, and then each clause is put to a vote. Members indicate their agreement by raising their hands.

Permanent political pressure

In a few months, parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held, and once again, discussions related to the Constitutional Council heat up. The council says that it only pays attention to legal documents in examining qualifications and does not get involved in partisan, factional and group competitions.

The Constitutional Council has also made significant decisions during its lifetime and has received significant reactions. The disqualification of Hashemi Rafsanjani in the 2013 presidential elections was one of these decisions.

Ayatollah Seyed Ahmad Khatami, a member of the council, speaks about political pressures on the council: "I have been a member of the Constitutional Council for two years. In these two years, the only thing I have not seen is parties and groups. Only the law is discussed here, and nothing else. Of course, the council has always been accused by political groups, but we do our legal duty. Political groups must know that the council is not influenced by political pressure and is only under the influence of the law."

Ayatollah Jannati stops the session and welcomes the students, expressing his satisfaction that for the first time some students have participated in the official and working session of the Constitutional Council, and he finds it useful. One of the students speaks on behalf of the others and invites the jurists of the council to come to universities and have sessions with the students.
The sound of the noon prayer call is heard. The session ends, and those present leave the hall to participate in congregational prayer. Before going to the prayer location, students and council members form small gatherings and gab.

Source: Tehran Times

Your Comment