All licensed lawyers, including judges and MPs, can vote to elect JSC lawyer, rules Supreme Court

Additional reporting by Zaheena Rasheed

Any individual with a lawyer license, including judges and MPs, will be allowed to vote in electing a lawyer to the ten member judicial oversight body, the Supreme Court has ruled on Monday.

The order voids a clause in new regulations compiled by the Attorney General’s office which prohibits judges and parliamentarians from participating in the vote to elect a lawyer to the Judicial Services Commission (JSC).

The JSC is comprised of the Speaker of the People’s Majlis, a Supreme Court judge elected by the bench, a High Court judge elected by the judges of the High Court, a judge of the lower courts elected by the judges of the lower courts, an MP elected by the MPs, a member of the public appointed by the Majlis, a presidential appointee, the Attorney General, President of the Civil Service Commission and a lawyer elected from the licensed lawyers.

The order – signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain – said lawyers do not lose their license despite serving in other professions. It further noted that the High Court had rescinded a Civil Court order of 2009 which prohibited judges from voting in the lawyer election.

Faiz advised against discrimination between licensed lawyers based on their profession, and ordered the state authorities to ensure all lawyers, regardless of their current positions, are able to vote in the election.

Speaking to Minivan News, lawyer Husnu Suood said the ruling compromised the independence of the legal profession.

“I feel that allowing judges to vote in the election of a member representing legal profession in JSC compromises the independence of the legal profession. It is high time that we expedite the enactment of the much awaited legal professional Act to ensure independence of the legal profession,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hassan Latheef said the Supreme Court’s ruling was “wrong” and appears to be an attempt to limit the space for lawyers to advocate on their behalf.

The lawyer slot must be occupied by a practicing lawyer, Latheef said pointing out that judges are not allowed to practice despite having licenses. Further, judges from the Supreme Court, High Court and lower courts already have designated slots in the JSC, he added.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General’s office has extended the application deadline – set to expire at 2 pm today – to Monday (June 30).

Latheef said the extension may allow judges or MPs to apply for the lawyer slot.

“If they can vote, they probably can stand for the position? This undermines the spirit of the whole election,” he said.

The election is currently scheduled for July 13.

Minivan News was unable to contact AG Mohamed Anil at the time of press.

At present, AG office lawyer Ahmed Rasheed represents the lawyer community on the JSC.

The four lawyers who have applied for the position are former deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem, Mohamed Fareed, Anas Abdul Sattar and Mohamed Faisal.