Updated at 6.20pm with PN statement

The Electoral Commission cannot play the role of investigator and judge in cases presented under the party funding law, the Constitutional Court ruled on Monday.

The court upheld an appeal by the Nationalist Party after a lower court had dismissed its request to stop the Electoral Commission from investigating it over suspected irregularities in donations by the db Group.

The Constitutional Court, presided over by Chief Justice Joseph Azzopardi and justices Giannino Caruana Demajo and Noel Cuschieri in a 119-page judgement said the Electoral Commission could not play the role of investigator and judge.

After investigating any complaint brought to its attention, the Commission was not to adjudicate upon the issue and furthermore impose a penalty. The Electoral Commission was not a court in terms of article 39(1) of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court declared.

If such powers, as those granted to the Commission under the Party Financing Act, were allowed to stand, they would run counter to the fundamental concepts of “independence and impartiality” as embodied within our Constitution, the judgment read.

As for the setting up of a sub-committee (for the various roles) in terms of the party financing law, this too ran counter to fundamental rights since it lacked the constitutional and conventional underpinnings necessary to ensure that the right to a fair hearing was safeguarded.

The court rejected a cross-appeal by the Attorney General, declaring him liable for the costs of the case before the First Hall, Civil Court as well as part of the costs of the appeal.

Another cross-appeal by the Electoral Commission was partly upheld so that the appellant was exonerated from bearing the costs of the case.

Government to amend laws

The Justice Ministry said later on Monday that in view of the judgment, it would be working on amendments to the law to reflect the findings of the Court.

PN says judgment corroborates its stand

The Nationalist Party felt vindicated by the judgment, saying that it raised concerns about the law back when it was first being debated in parliament.

It said that parliament would now have to change the law, bringing it in line with what the PN had originally proposed.

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