The Guardian Council of the Constitution (شورای نگهبان قانون اساسی in Persian) is a high office within the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran which has the authority to interpret the constitution and to determine if the laws passed by the parliament are in line with the constitution of Iran or not. As such, the Council itself is not a legislative body, but it has veto power over the Iranian parliament. Its members are composed of Islamic clerics and lawyers.
Six members of the Council are clerics selected by the Supreme Leader, who serves as Iran's Head of State. The other six members are lawyers proposed by Iran's head of judicial branch (selected in turn by the Supreme Leader), and voted in by the Parliament. Members are elected for six years on a phased basis, so that half the membership changes every three years.
As mentioned, the council also holds veto power over all legislation approved by the Majlis. It can drop a law based on two accounts: being against Islamic laws, or being against the constitution. While all the members vote on the laws being compatible with the constitution, only the six clerics vote on them being compatible with Islam.
If any law is rejected, they will be passed back to the Majlis for correction. If the Majlis and the Council of Guardians couldn't decide on a case, it is passed up to the Expediency Council for a final decision.
All candidates of parliamentary or presidency elections, as well as candidates for the Assembly of Experts and city councils, have to be qualified by the Guardian Council in order to be able to run in the election. This, is based on a controversial interpretation of the constitution and has led to numerous bitter political debates in Iran.
The current chairman of the council is Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, deputized by the lawyer Abbasali Kadkhodai. Other cleric members are Sadegh Larijani, Mohammad Reza Modarresi-Yazdi, Mohammad Momen, Gholamreza Rezvani, and Mohammad Yazdi. The other lawyer members are Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, Ebrahim Azizi, Gholamhossein Elham (spokesman), Mohsen Esmaili, and Abbas Ka'bi.
- The official website of the Guardian Council (in Persian) (http://www.irisn.com/)
- Iran newspaper's article on lawyer members of the Guardian Council (in Persian) (http://khabarnameh.gooya.com/politics/archives/012928.php)