The Criminal Court has usurped a Supreme Court power in issuing new regulations outlining procedures to be followed in submitting cases, Deputy Prosecutor General Hussein Shameem has said.
The Criminal Court today rejected 60 cases submitted by the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, claiming cases did not fulfill criteria specified in regulations publicised on February 19.
However, Shameem said the Judicature Act only allows the Criminal Court to compile regulations administering internal affairs, and does not allow the court the authority to issue regulations governing external affairs.
It is the Judicial Council or the Supreme Court which has the power to issue such regulations, he said.
The Supreme Court abolished the Judicial Council in March 2011 claiming the council is unconstitutional and assumed its powers, including the power to compile regulations and policies on administration of the courts.
The Criminal Court’s regulations issued unilaterally also allows other courts to compile their own regulations, which may result in different procedures for each court and affects the right to equality guaranteed by the constitution, Shameem said.
“For example, the Criminal Court says cases involving serious crimes must be submitted within 45 days. What if the Maakurathu island court decides cases must be submitted in 15 or 60 days? This impacts the investigation process and means prosecutors must change procedures depending on which court they want to submit cases to,” he said.
The Criminal Court and PG’s office have been at odds over criminal proceedings following former PG Ahmed Muiz’s resignation in November.
The court suspended all ongoing cases and refused to accept new cases citing parliament’s failure to appoint a new PG within 30 days of Muizz’s resignation.
The Supreme Court, on Shameem’s request, ordered the Criminal Court to restart trials, but the court only began hearings in ongoing cases and refused to accept new cases.
The Supreme Court on February 18 released a new ruling ordering the court to continue with ongoing cases and accept new cases to ensure the criminal justice system continues.
Shameem said the Criminal Court’s new regulations had been applied retroactively.
“There are a 153 people in pre-trial detention. There are many others who are unable to find employment due to ongoing criminal cases. The Criminal Court’s actions are affecting a public service,” he said.
The PG office has a backlog of over 500 cases ready for prosecution, he added.
The Human Rights Commission of Maldives last week called on the People’s Majlis to expedite the appointment of a new PG, stating the delay violates the citizen’s right to justice.
In December, President Abdulla Yameen nominated his nephew Maumoon Hameed for the position. Parliament broke for recess at the end of the year, however, after having forwarded the nominee for vetting by the independent institutions committee.