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Guardian Council / Council of Guardians

The constitution provided for a Constitutional Council of Sages, better known known as the Council of Guardians of the Constitution (Shora-ye Negahban-e Qanun-e Assassi, referred to in Articles 91-99 of the constitution). The Guardian Council, as it is known for short, is in effect an upper house of parliament with the power to vote out the lower house's resolutions. As one of the most significant institutions under by the Supreme Leader, the Guardian Council had been established to safeguard Islamic rules and the Constitution. It is assigned to check the laws passed by the Majlis, compare them with the provisions of the Islamic canon and the constitution, and ratify them, or return them to the House to be amended.

The Guardian Council has historically been a body dominated by conservatives whose members are appointed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini before 1989 and Ayatollah Khamenei after. The 12-member council was a powerful non-elected body that supervised elections and approved laws passed by parliament. In the past, the council had frequently been used to block attempts by reformers to open up Iranian society. Some of the council's members were appointed by Ayatollah Khameini, and some were selected by parliament from a list put forward by the judiciary. The Guardian Council, comprising of six jurists appointed by the Supreme Leader and six lawyers proposed by the Judiciary and voted on by the Majlis, oversees laws which are passed by the parliament to confirm their conformity with the Islamic teachings and the national constitution.

The Guardian Council comprises a dozen members, that is, six jurisprudent members who have attained the Islamic rank of "Ayatollah" who are appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six lay jurists, who are appointed by the head of the judiciary from among candidates nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and approved by the Majles. The salient authority pivots are manipulated by the Ayatollahs who are appointed by the Supreme Leader for a six-year tenure. Only in the first term, however, half of its members, as determined by lots, were changed after three years. The Supreme Leader was empowered to reinstate the Islamic canonist members of the council after their six-year term was over. They carry out the religious screening process on a vast majority basis during which the jurists are not eligible to vote. The jurist members of the Guardian Council are nominated by the Judiciary and approved by the Parliament. Both panels can vote for or against a statute when Majlis legislations are found to be contrary to the Constitution.

Council of Guardians reviews all legislation passed by the Majles for adherence to Islamic and constitutional principles. Motions and bills passed by the Majlis do not automatically become law. The Majlis is required to forward all its resolutions to the Guardian Council. The council announces its opinion on them within no more than 10 days. It may, however, request more time if necessary. Regarding the compatibility of the legislation with Islamic provisions, only the opinion of a majority of the six Islamic canonists of the council is valid, but concerning their constitutionality the opinion of the majority of all members will hold. The council members are required to attend Majlis debates on urgent bills. Article 93 of the constitution emphasized that the Majlis does not hold any legal status, if the Guardian Council has not yet been formed, except for the purpose of approving the credentials of the MPs and the election of six jurists to the Guardian Council.

The Guardian Council also has the duty of interpreting the constitutional provisions, and its opinions in this regard are valid by a majority of three-fourths of its members.

A further key task of the Guardian Council is monitoring the Assembly of Experts, presidential, parliamentary and City Council elections, as well as referendums. Based on the interpretation of the Guardian Council members of the Constitution, the watchdog body has also the right to qualify or disqualify the electoral candidates. Based on the same interpretation, the Guardian Council says it has the right of the so-called "approbatory supervision", that can approve or reject the qualification of the candidates for what it calls the interests of the regime.

During its first two years of operation, the Council of Guardians did not challenge Majlis bills and generally played a passive role in the political process. In May 1982, however, the Council of Guardians established its independent role by vetoing a law to nationalize all foreign trade. Since that time, the Council of Guardians refused to ratify several pieces of legislation that would restrict property rights. In particular, the Council of Guardians opposed the efforts of the Majlis to enact comprehensive land reform statutes. In 1987, tension between the Majlis and the Guardian Council became so great that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini created an additional decision making body, the Expediency Council, to resolve disputes.

The Constitution provides the Council of Guardians the power to screen and disqualify candidates for elective offices based on an ill-defined set of requirements, including candidates' ideological beliefs. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Council of Guardians rejected the candidacy of 145 out of the 356 candidates who filed to run for 17 seats in the special Majles election held concurrently with the Presidential election in June 2001. This constituted a far higher percentage than were rejected in the February 2000 Majles elections. Allegations of manipulation of the electoral process by the Guardian Council have been widespread in subsequent elections, including that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.

Thanks to a recent enactment from the Expediency Council, the Guardian Council was obliged to present its evidences for disqualification of the nominees. According to the Constitution, if the majority of the MPs rejected the faults found by the Guardian Council regarding the acts passed by the Parliament, the legislation would be passed on to the Expediency Council for final settlement.

ALIZADEH, Mr. Ahmad  
JANATI, Mr. Ahmad  
YAZDI, Mr. Mohammed  
ZAVARE'I, Mr. Reza  
Alizadeh, Ahmad
Alizadeh, Mohammad Reza
Abbasifard, Mohammad Reza
Bizhani, Khosro
Zavarehei, Seyyed Reza
Habibi, Hassan
Mo'men, Mohammad ; Ayatollah
Qadiri, Hassan ; Ayatollah
Rezvani, Gholamreza ; Ayatollah
Larijani, Sadeq ; Hojatoleslam
Yazdi, Mohammad ; Ayatollah
Jannati, Ahmad ; Ayatollah

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:45:30 ZULU