The People’s Majlis has today removed Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan from the Supreme Court bench.
Of the 75 MPs who were present and voting at today’s extraordinary sitting, 53 MPs voted in favor, while 21 MPs voted against the move. One MP abstained.
The dismissal comes after the judicial watchdog, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), found the judges guilty of gross misconduct and incompetence at an emergency meeting on Thursday.
The ruling has not been made available to MPs or to the public.
“Today marks the darkest day in the constitutional history of Maldives,” opposition leader and former President Mohamed Nasheed said prior to the vote, claiming President Abdulla Yameen was attempting to fashion the Supreme Court “into a coat to fit his shoulders.”
Six opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs – Yamin Rasheed, Abdul Bari Abdulla, Ismail Naseer, Mohamed Nazim, Ahmed Marzooq, and Reeko Moosa Manik – did not attend today’s sitting despite a three-whip line ordering all 23 MPs to be present and vote against the judges’ dismissal. Nasheed has suggested the MPs were offered bribes for their absence.
Speaking to the press after the vote, MDP Chairperson Ali Waheed said he has asked the part’s disciplinary committee to take action against the six MPs for breaking the whip line.
The MDP will continue to grow, he said, adding: “This is another wave in Maldives democracy. We will ride it out.”
Four Jumhooree Party (JP) MPs also voted against the dismissal. They include JP Leader and tourism tycoon Gasim Ibrahim, Ali Hussein, Abdulla Riyaz, and Hussein Mohamed.
Ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Nasheed abstained from the vote.
The new chief justice will be appointed at a second extraordinary sitting tonight. President Yameen’s nominee is most likely to be incumbent judge and Chief Justice of the interim Supreme Court Abdulla Saeed.
MPs attacked, threatened
During today’s sitting, several MDP and JP MPs condemned the Majlis secretariat’s failure to provide details of the JSC report, stating they have not been provided with a reason for Faiz and Muthasim’s dismissal.
Addressing Majlis Speaker Abdulla Maseeh, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said: “These days under your Speakership will be written down in history as the most undemocratic and violent in the Maldives.”
He also described every day under President Yameen as a threat to the Maldives constitution.
Fahmy and JP MP Abdulla Riyaz were attacked and doused with petrol on their way to the Majlis this morning.
Several MPs, including former Speaker Abdulla Shahid and MDP MP Rozaina Adam received texts stating: “If you fail to do what you must today, then prepare to die. Your children will be sacrificed for this as well.”
JP MP Hussein Mohamed repeatedly questioned Maseeh how the Majlis could vote to dismiss judges based on a three line letter from the JSC.
MP Ali Hussein, also of the JP, said the JSC had flouted due process and failed to provide judges an opportunity to speak in their defense. The Majlis must take responsibility if the move results in vigilante justice and anarchy, he added.
Rozaina said the world would laugh at Maldives’ “uncivilized” attempt to remove Supreme Court judges and questioned why the JSC had failed to find Justice Ali Hameed, implicated in three sex tapes, guilty of misconduct.
Demanding details of the JSC ruling, MDP MP Mariya Didi asked if the two judges were being dismissed because they have often formed the dissenting opinion in several controversial cases, including the decision to annul the presidential polls of September 2013.
MDP MP Rtd Brigadier General Ibrahim Didi repeatedly recited verses of the Qur’an prohibiting bribery and appealed to the Speaker to refrain from holding the vote.
Religious Adhaalath Party MP Anara Naeem voted for Faiz and Muthasim’s dismissal despite initially telling local media she would decide on a position only after researching the JSC ruling.
Meanwhile, approximately 100 MDP members led by Nasheed gathered on Fareedhee Magu, several meters away from the Majlis house, in protest of the Majlis vote.
Police had warned protesters they would be arrested and prosecuted within 48 hours of arrest if they attempt to cross police lines.
The Civil Court yesterday issued a resolution condemning the JSC’s ruling, stating that the People’s Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.
“We believe we are obliged to comment on the issue for the sake of the democratic and judicial history of the Maldives, and we believe keeping silent at this juncture amounts to negligence” the seven member bench said.
The MDP has since sought an injunction to stop the Majlis vote from proceeding and asked the Civil Court to invalidate the JSC decision. The Civil Court has accepted the case, but the vote went ahead before a decision on the stay order could be reached.
Private lawyers have also taken up the case in the High Court, with Hasaan Maaz Shareef, Mohamed Faisal, and Shaheen Hameed also asking for the vote to be halted and for the annulment of “unconstitutional” amendments to the Judicature Act.
This article has been updated with the details of today’s vote and opposition’s response to the vote.
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