The High Court of Justice ruled unanimously on Sunday that Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz may serve an indictment in court against Likud MK Michael Gorlovsky for double voting, even though the Knesset House Committee has already twice rejected Mazuzâ€™s request to lift the MKâ€™s immunity.
A panel of seven justices reasoned that since the House Committeeâ€™s second rejection, and before the High Court could hear a petition against it, the Knesset passed a new law that shifts the onus of justification from the attorney-general who wishes to indict, to the member of Knesset who faces indictment.
The law, which was passed on July 25, 2005, abolishes the old system whereby if Mazuz wanted to indict an MK, he would have to come to the House Committee and ask it to lift the MKâ€™s immunity as well as defend his request.
According to the amendment, the attorney-general no longer has to ask the House Committee to lift an MKâ€™s immunity and instead, he files the indictment directly in court. The burden is now on the MK, who has 30 days in which to decide whether to ask the House Committee to grant him parliamentary immunity. He must justify his request on specific criteria enumerated in the law, for example, on the grounds that he has already been punished for the improper deed by the Knesset disciplinary committee.
Gorlovsky was unavailable for comment on the court decision and has yet to announce whether he will appeal to the House Committee to grant him immunity for the act of double voting during a Knesset budget vote on the night of May 28-29, 2003.
Gorlovsky had admitted to voting for himself and his neighbor, Likud MK Gilad Erdan, who had briefly left the plenum. Gorlovsky was punished by the Knesset Ethics Committee for the deed. Nevertheless, after police conducted a criminal investigation, Mazuz decided to indict Gorlovsky and Likud MK Yehiel Hazan, who was also accused of double voting that night.
The House Committee voted against lifting the immunity of both Hazan and Gorlovsky, but afterwards Hazan voluntary decided to stand trial. Gorlovsky resisted both attempts by Mazuz to lift his immunity.
After each House Committee decision in Gorlovskyâ€™s favor, The Movement for Quality Government petitioned the High Court to overrule the committeeâ€™s decision. On the first petition, the High Court ruled that the House Committee had made the wrong decision and granted permission to the Mazuz to appeal a second time to lift Gorlovskyâ€™s immunity.
Mazuz did appeal and his request was rejected again. The Movement for Quality Government petitioned against the committeeâ€™s decision once again.
This time, the court did not rule on the petition, but said that since the law had been changed, the attorney-general could now act in accordance with it and submit his indictment directly to the court.