The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has announced that the High Court has temporarily suspended the hearings of the case against Judicial Service Commission (JSC) filed by the party’s presidential candidate, former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed is challenging the legitimacy of the JSC’s appointment of the three-member judges panel to the Hulhumale Magistrate Court to hear Nasheed’s criminal trial.
The party’s remarks come just a day after High Court cancelled a hearing of the case in which local media reported that the court was to decide on counter-procedural issues taken by JSC. The JSC has contended that the High Court did not have the jurisdiction to look into a matter.
Member of Nasheed’s legal team, Hassan Latheef, told Minivan News on Wednesday that the hearing was cancelled after the judge who was presiding over the case opted to “take leave” for the day.
However, shortly after the cancellation, the JSC declared that the commission had indefinitely suspended the Chief Judge of High Court Ahmed Shareef – who also happened to be among the judges presiding over Nasheed’s case against the JSC.
JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla insisted at a press conference yesterday that the disciplinary action had no relation to the former president’s case.
In a press conference held today at the party headquarters, Vice Chairperson of MDP Ali Shiyam said the party saw the High Court’s decision to withhold the hearings until next July as an encouragement for Nasheed and the party to continue its nation-wide presidential campaigning.
Shiyam added that if no further disruptions came from the courts, it would mean an additional strength to the party in their bid to secure the presidential elections in the first round. Shiyam also described the move as an end to the obstructions leveled against Nasheed by the courts and the judiciary.
“President [Nasheed] will not have to halt the campaign and come to Male to appear before the court. That is a new strength, a new encouragement to our campaign,” Shiyam said.
Meanwhile, another member of Nasheed’s legal team, Hisaan Hussain, tweeted that despite the indefinite suspension of Judge Shareef, neither the JSC nor the acting chief judge appointed to fill the vacancy of Judge Shareef would be allowed to reshuffle the judges presiding over the case.
Speaking to Minivan News, MDP Spokesperson MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the move to hold the hearings was also an assurance to the public and the international community that former President Nasheed would be able to take part in the elections, as was unlikely that Nasheed would be given a criminal sentence.
He added that the party were facing a lot of challenges compared to other political parties who are also campaigning for the election.
“Because of the ongoing case concerning President Nasheed, the party has had to spend equal time and resources on its legal battles while running a nation wide presidential campaign. The MDP is battling with everything including the judiciary, the Prosecutor General and all the injustices faced by ordinary people,” he said.
Fahmy further added that the previous scheduling of Nasheed’s cases and sudden cancellations resulted in severe financial losses to the party, as each campaign event is organised by the hard work of party members across the country.
However, Fahmy also echoed Shiyam’s statement that the suspension of the case marked the end of Nasheed’s legal battle, stating that the High Court’s decision would allow the party to focus its energy on campaigning rather than winning court battles.
The Hulhumle-based magistrate court is currently hearing the case against the former President over the controversial detention of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) during the last days of his presidency.
During the first trials of the hearing, Nasheed’s legal team contested the legitimacy of the magistrate court.
However, in a Civil Court case filed by lawyer Ismail Wisham, which was subsequently taken over by Supreme Court – and to which Nasheed’s legal team also intervened – endorsed the legitimacy of the much-debated Hulhumale Magistrate court.
As soon as the trials resumed, Nasheed’s legal team challenged the legitimacy of the appointment of the three-member judges panel to the magistrate court. The former president’s counsel is arguing that appointing judges to specific cases was not the JSC’s responsibility, but that of the chief judges of respective courts.
Minivan News contacted a High Court media official but was told the court had no comment on the case.
JSC suspends High Court Judge, appoints acting replacement
The JSC has meanwhile appointed Judge Abdul Rauoof Ibrahim as acting Chief Judge of High Court until the JSC concludes its inquiry into complaints filed against the suspended Chief Judge of High Court Ahmed Shareef.
Speaking to Minivan News, JSC Media Official Hassan Zaheen confirmed the appointment and said that Judge Abdul Rauoof would be in charge of running the High Court until the JSC concludes its inquiry.
The JSC on Wednesday issued Judge Shareef an ‘indefinite suspension’ following a complaint filed by the remaining judges of the court against him during last year.
The ruling came hours after the High Court suspended hearings against the former President.
A similar case was lodged last April in which eight judges of the High Court’s nine-member bench lodged a case with the JSC against Chief Judge Shareef, for suspending the Hulhumale Magistrate Court’s trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed without registering the case in court.
The suspension coincided with the cancellation of a hearing of a High Court’s case in which Nasheed challenged the legitimacy of the JSC’s appointment of the three member panel of judges to Hulhumale Magistrate Court.
High Court Chief Judge Shareef was summoned to the JSC earlier this month, almost a year after the complaint was lodged.
According to local media reports, the decision was approved at a JSC meeting today with three votes in favour and one against. Attorney General Aishath Bisham, President’s Member Mohamed ‘Reynis’ Saleem and Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi voted in favour while Public Member Shuaib Abdul Rahman voted against the motion.
Lawyers’ representative Ahmed Rasheed and Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan reportedly abstained while High Court Judge Abdulla Hameed did not participate in the vote.
Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Majlis Member MP Gasim Ibrahim did not attend the meeting.
Shuaib told private broadcaster Raajje TV following the meeting that the decision was made in violation of due process and JSC procedures as a report regarding the allegations against the chief judge was not presented to the commission members.
The motion or petition to suspend Shareef was proposed by Attorney General Bisham, who is yet to receive parliamentary consent for her appointment.
Meanwhile, at the press conference this evening, Justice Adam Mohamed refused to reveal either the details of the vote or the members in attendance despite repeated queries from reporters.
He also refused to state which High Court judge would take over the chief judge’s administrative functions.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) – of which Nasheed is the presidential candidate – described the actions by the JSC as attempts to influence the case filed by Nasheed against the JSC.
“We condemn the actions of the Maldivian courts, which violate the electoral rights of nearly 50,000 Maldivian Democratic Party members. The disruption to President Nasheed’s campaign trip to Raa atoll is an unnecessary, politically motivated challenge,” the party contended yesterday.
“The JSC continues to try and cover up the unconstitutional manner in which they appointed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench through attempts at influencing the judiciary, while the Courts create logistical challenges such as today’s. However, it does not stop affect the spirit of President Nasheed’s campaign,” said MP Mariya Ahmed Didi.