The term 'Atoll Council' as defined in the decentralization bill currently under debate in the Majils has led to a political maelstrom and a war of words between the President and his Attorney General, who believes the councils are unconstitutional. Below is what the Constitution says on the subject.
Article 230 (b): "For the purpose of governing the administrative divisions according to the principles of decentralization, the President has the power to create institutions, posts, island councils, atoll councils and city councils, as provided in law."
Schedule II of the Constitution lists out the 'administrative divisions.' The list comprises 21 divisions: the existing 20 atolls of Maldives plus Male.
In the light of Article 230 (b) above, the President has the power to create 5 entities, three of which are councils. The question is where do these councils belong?
Let us start with 'island' council, probably the least controversial among the three. There appears to be no dispute that the word 'island' here refers to the existing administrative islands of Maldives (which in some cases could be more than one in a geographical island, e.g. Fuvahmulah).
Defining 'city' council is also not that controversial. According to common perception, Male is the nearest to a city that the Maldives has. Further, Schedule II lists Male as an administrative division. Since it is the only division in the list which is not an atoll, putting 2 and 2 together, it is reasonable to assume that 'city council' belongs to Male.
This brings us to the bone of contention –atoll council. Attorney General Dhiyana Saeed appears to favor the view that an atoll council should belong to one of the 20 atolls listed as administrative divisions in Schedule II. However, this is not how the draft bill on decentralized administration sees things. According to the bill, an 'atoll' council need not belong to just one administrative atoll. Rather it could belong to the 2 - 4 atolls in the provinces proposed by the bill.
The decentralized administration bill is currently in the Majlis, where members will decide the issue and pass the law. After that it could perhaps go to the Supreme Court for a ruling on whether the law is constitutional.