The High Court has overruled a Civil Court injunction issued on September 8 ordering the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to halt its appointment of judges to superior courts pending a ruling on the constitutionality of the process.
The temporary injunction was appealed by the JSC at the High Court, which ruled today that the Civil Court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of laws and regulations.
A group of lawyers had filed a case at the Civil Court contesting that regulations drafted by the JSC – containing evaluation criteria for selecting judges to superior courts – conflicted with both the constitution and the Judges Act. The lawyers requested the court abolish the regulations and declare the commission’s shortlist void.
The final interviews of 17 shortlisted candidates were due to place on September 10, two days before the injunction or staying order was delivered.
In its verdict today, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the Civil Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case, citing article 143 of the constitution as well as provisions of the Judicature Act.
Briefing press after filing the case at Civil Court, lawyers Ali Hussein and Ismail Visham argued that the evaluation criteria formulated by the JSC unfairly favoured graduates of the College of Islamic Education (Kulliya).
Ali Hussein explained that under the regulations drafted by the JSC, a candidate with a masters degree and a graduate of Kulliya both receive 25 marks for educational qualification.
“We are saying this is not fair,” he said. “We especially note that the Faculty of Sharia and Law teaches shariah subjects to the same extent as Kulliya [Islamic College], but graduates of the faculty receive 20 marks while students from Kulliya receive 25 marks.”
Kulliya graduates also received higher marks than graduates of the Islamic University of Malaysia, he said.
The lawyers also claimed that two shortlisted candidates had close ties – as a spouse and a business partner – with two members of the commission, suggesting a clear conflict of interest as neither had recused themselves from voting in the JSC panel.
Moreover, the lawyers observed that the JSC criteria also conflicted with the academic rankings of the Maldives Qualification Authority (MQA), formerly the accreditation board, which places Kulliya certificates below those of overseas institutions.
Following today’s ruling, the lawyers are preparing to file their case at the High Court.