The Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) will function in accordance with policies set by the Supreme Court bench and under the direct supervision of a designated justice, according to new rules (Dhivehi) promulgated by the apex court.
The rules made public last week states that the Supreme Court bench shall assign a justice to ensure that the DJA – tasked with management of the courts, public relations and providing facilities, training, archiving systems and security for judges – was implementing policies determined by the court.
The justice will be assigned for a one-year period with the responsibility of supervising the functioning of the department and “providing instructions and guidelines from the Supreme Court bench.”
The designated justice will also report to the bench on the operations of the DJA.
The Supreme Court stated that the rules were formulated under authority granted by articles 141 and 156 of the constitution.
While article 141(b) states that the Supreme Court “shall be the highest authority for the administration of justice in the Maldives,” article 156 states, “The courts have the inherent power to protect and regulate their own process, in accordance with law and the interests of justice.”
The DJA was formed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on October 1, 2008 to replace the Ministry of Justice following the adoption of the new constitution in August 2008.
While the DJA was to function under the JSC, on December 2, 2008, the Supreme Court brought the department under its remit with a ruling to that effect.
With the enactment of the Judicature Act in 2010, the DJA was reestablished with a mandate for court management, public relations, training of judges, providing for structures, facilities and archiving systems, and providing security for judges.
Although the department was to function under the Judicial Council created by the new law, the Supreme Court abolished the council in a ruling that struck down the relevant articles in the Judicature Act.
The DJA has since been functioning under the direct supervision of the apex court.
Speaking to Minivan News today, former JSC member and outspoken whistleblower, Aishath Velezinee, stressed that the administration of justice and the administration of the courts were “two different though interconnected issues.”
“The Supreme Court is misconstruing article 156 of the constitution and the appointment of a Supreme Court judge is tantamount to control of the courts,” she contended.
“This goes against the constitutional concept of independence of courts whereby each court is an independent institution, separate from the influence of other courts, including the Supreme Court. And, the own decisions of 2008 and 2011 the Supreme Court refers to are a systematic takeover of the DJA which should stand as an independent institution solely facilitating administration of the courts.”
In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, wrote that as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s ruling abolishing the Judicial Council, “the only platform for internal communication within the judiciary where difficulties, challenges, experiences and opinions could be exchanged, disappeared.”
“Many interlocutors reported that the dissolution of the Judicial Council and the direct control of the Supreme Court over the Department of Judicial Administration have had the effect of centralising administrative decisions in the hands of the Supreme Court,” the special rapporteur stated.
“This has undoubtedly contributed to the strong impression that lower courts are excluded from the administration of justice and decision-making processes.”