Criminal Court stops accepting new cases, Civil Court returns to normal

The Criminal Court has told the Prosecutor General not to send any new cases to the court until further notice as it is busy implementing administrative changes required by the Judicature Act.

The Civil Court, which had suspended “all matters of justice” for seven days from Sunday to make administrative changes necessitated by the Judicature Act, will be returning to normal tomorrow, Chief Judge Ali Sameer told Minivan News.

“Four days” in which justice was suspended so the court can focus on administrative jobs, Chief Judge Sameer said, was “not bad”.

Chief Judge Sameer denied that President Nasheed’s ratification of the Act on Thursday 21 October had taken the court by surprise. Rather, he said, the Court was unsure as to whether President Nasheed would ratify the Act or not.

“Had he not ratified the Act as passed by the Majlis, pre-emptive action on our part would have meant that we would have made changes that were unnecessary, and also incurred a huge amount of expenses unnecessarily”, he said.

The Judicature Act was enacted to bring the nation’s judiciary in line with the standards set by  the 2008 Constitution to establish an independent judiciary replacing the administrative system of justice that was in place prior to the passing of the Constitution.

It creates the country’s courts, establishes their system of hierarchy and forms regulations according to which they should function.

The Act, which the President ratified within the specified 15-day period, changed the name of the Madhanee Court to Civil Court and the name of the Jinaaee Court to Criminal Court. ‘Madhanee’ means ‘civil’ in Arabic and ‘jinaaee’ means ‘criminal’.

Changes in the Act also affect the operation of courts in various islands. Attempts by Minivan News to contact the Chief Judicial Administrator Ibrahim Adam Manik to clarify the full range of administrative changes that has necessitated the interruptions to justice proved unsuccessful.

When Minivan News was able to get Manik on the phone after a two hour period in which his secretary repeatedly said he was “on his break” he requested that the question be sent to him by email.

Manik ignored the email when it was sent as requested.

The Criminal Court announcement states the difficulties have arisen because “relevant authorities of the judiciary have not taken the required decisions” on the procedures to be followed in the cases that are now brought to the court.

Nor have the said authorities taken a decision on how island courts should be addressed when the Criminal Court is sending out summons or messages to people involved in the cases being brought to the court.

The Court does not specify a date when it will resume accepting cases from the Prosecutor General. It says, however, “even though the Court is encountering administrative difficulties in implementing the many changes required by the new Act”, it will resume normal business “as soon as the work is completed”

Mohamed Nasheed, Independent MP for Kulhudhuffushi, who was a member of the Parliamentary Committee in charge of the Bill said the courts should have been in a position to meet the changes required by the Judicature Act head on.

The Bill had been in the Parliament since the beginning of the year, and the Parliamentary Committee had worked closely with the Courts during the re-drafting stages, asking for their opinion, comments and feedback all along the way, Nasheed said.

“The Judicature Act does not bring about a change so fundamental or so radical that the process of dispensing justice has to be interrupted. There should have been a smooth transition in which the courts seamlessly integrated the changes as the Act was ratified,” Nasheed said.