The staff of the judiciary appeared to defy a Supreme Court order on Thursday, continuing with an annual inter-court futsal tournament despite the an order requiring the apex court’s permission.
A Supreme Court circular, issued hours before the “Judiciary Cup 2015” began, said the judiciary’s staff could only form associations or clubs in accordance with a policy set by the Supreme Court and that their activities must be overseen by the Supreme Court-controlled Department of Judicial Administration (DJA).
However, participants of the tournament told Minivan News they went ahead after deciding that the circular would only apply to future activities.
A Civil Court staff who wished to remain anonymous said: “I don’t think we should get permission from the Supreme Court to hold a simple futsal tournament. They don’t hold control over our lives. “
The annual three-day tournament was last held in 2013 by the Criminal Court. The DJA was tasked with organising the 2014 tournament, but failed to do so.
The Drug Court voluntarily organised this year’s competition, the staff said.
A DJA Spokesperson declined to comment on the tournament, saying he would have to consult the Supreme Court before making any statements.
The tournament began on Thursday night without the DJA and Supreme Court’s participation. The final match between the Civil Court and the Drug Court will be played tonight.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court released a second circular ordering government and state offices to communicate directly with the Supreme Court on matters concerning the judiciary, instead of contacting the lower courts, separate judges and staff.
The circular also stated that an employee of the judiciary could only be appointed to any working committees with the explicit permission of the Supreme Court.
The apex court on February 12 also reduced the period during which an appeal could be filed at lower courts and tribunals from 90 and 60 days, respectively, to ten days.
The People’s Majlis in December dismissed Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan after the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) pushed through an amendment to the Judicature Act reducing the seven-member bench to five judges.
Shortly thereafter, Justice Abdulla Saeed was appointed Chief Justice.
In September 2014, the Supreme Court initiated suo moto proceedings against all five members of the Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) in relation to its Universal Period Review (UPR) report to the UN Human Rights Council, which suggested the apex court’s control over the judiciary was undermining powers of lower courts.
“Supreme Court issued a circular ordering all state institutions not to communicate to individual courts regarding any information relating to the judiciary except through the Supreme Court. HRCM is facing difficulties in gathering information related to judiciary due to lack of cooperation,” the report stated.
In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, wrote that centralising administrative decisions in the hands of the Supreme Court “has undoubtedly contributed to the strong impression that lower courts are excluded from the administration of justice and decision-making processes.”
The Maldives representative to the UNHRC subsequently accused the special rapporteur of undermining the sovereignty of the country.
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