The Criminal Court has suspended a number of staff members after they allegedly refused to work overtime, reports local media.
According to local media reports, last Monday (10 February) staff at the Criminal Court refused to work overtime and left for home after the court informed them they would not be paid for overtime.
Local newspaper Haveeru quoted an employee, saying that they had been told of the suspension today. Media reports have quoted figures of around a dozen staff being involved.
According to the staff, they had previously petitioned the judges at the court over the issue prior to the strike.
The staff member who spoke to Haveeru has said that the decision to suspend the staff was made by the judges, suggesting that this was not an authority the judges had.
He also said that there were judges in the court that do not work overtime, but that no action had been taken against them thus making their own suspension unfair.
Furthermore, the employee revealed that before the allowances for judges working at night was introduced, there were four days on which all the judges of the court other that the chief judge had refused to work at night.
He also noted one instance when the chief judge had handed responsibility for extension of detention hearings to a junior colleague, before going fishing, with the result that there was no one at the court to proceed with these hearings.
Recently, the Criminal Court decided to close down after official work hours due to budget restrictions.
The court at the time told the press that it had no funds to pay overtime allowances for employees, and that the Ministry of Finance had not responded regarding the matter. The Civil Court has taken the same measures owing to lack of funds.
Spokesperson of Judicial Administrations Latheefa Gasim referred Minivan News to the Director of Department of Judicial Administration Ahmed Majidh, who in turn referred Minivan News to a Criminal Court media official.
Criminal Court media official Ahmed Mohamed Manik subsequently said he would not like to comment on the matter.
Producing an extensive report on the state of the Maldivian judiciary last year, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul raised serious concerns about an impending budget catastrophe facing the judicial system.
“The immediate implications of the budget cuts on the judiciary are appalling. For instance, the Department of Judicial Administration only has funds to pay staff salaries until November 2013 and it had to cancel training this year,” Knaul noted in May 2013.
“The Civil Court reported that it would not have sufficient funds to pay its staff salaries after October 2013; furthermore, existing budgetary resources would not be sufficient to pay for utilities and facilities after June 2013,” read Knaul’s report.