MDP proposes changes to Supreme Court bench and no-confidence motion against Attorney General

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) decided during a contingency meeting of the party’s national council on Friday (September 20) to pursue a no-confidence motion against Attorney General (AG) Azima Shukoor and change the composition of the Supreme Court bench through legislation.

The meeting took place after three consecutive days of lengthy Supreme Court proceedings of a case filed by the Jumhooree Party (JP) against the Elections Commission (EC) seeking annulment of the first round of the September 7 presidential election. The Supreme Court hearings adjourned for the weekend on Thursday.

At its meeting yesterday, the MDP national council adopted a resolution to undertake all necessary efforts to ensure that the presidential election would be free, fair and transparent and “decided only by the vote of the people and not by the courts”.

The resolution submitted by MDP MP Ahmed Hamza was passed with unanimous consent of all 51 members of the national council in attendance.

‘Certainty of the margin’

During the debate on the resolution, the MDP presidential candidate former President Mohamed Nasheed said it was important for all political parties – including the JP – to have no doubts over the integrity of the electoral process.

Nasheed said that the JP’s main issue was the narrow margin of 1.28 percent – a difference of just 2,677 votes – between its candidate Gasim Ibrahim and the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

For the JP to accept the narrow margin, Nasheed said that the registry of voters had to be checked to verify the JP’s claim that ineligible voters were on the list.

Nasheed noted that the EC had published the registry in the government gazette for public scrutiny, after which the MDP had identified some 800 people in the list that were either deceased, underage or repeated more than once.

The question that has to be answered, said Nasheed, is whether more than 2,000 people who were not eligible to vote had cast their ballots.

The former president expressed confidence that electoral fraud had not occurred in the September 7 election even if there were problems with the voters registry.

Altering Supreme Court composition

“As experts are noting that some judges on the Supreme Court bench lack certain kinds of legal knowledge and experience, it is our view changes has to be made to the composition of the Supreme Court’s bench. That is, by amending the Judges Act,” Nasheed said.

Shortly before the MDP government was toppled on February 7, 2012, the party proposed a bill to amend the Judicature Act that would reduce the number of judges on both the benches of the Supreme Court and High Court.

MDP Spokesperson Imthiyaz Fahmy told Minivan News at the time that the amendments had been forwarded due to inefficiency of both the High Court and the Supreme Court in concluding cases.

In March 2013, the MDP national council, following a controversial Supreme Court ruling that overturned parliament’s decision to vote out Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan on sexual harassment charges, passed a motion calling on its parliamentary group to seek to abolish the existing Supreme Court bench and replace it with a new panel of judges, including foreign judges.

Meanwhile, during Friday’s national council meeting, Nasheed also stressed the importance of speeding up the process of appointing a parliament representative to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC). The seat reserved in the JSC for a member of parliament was declared vacant after JP Leader Gasim Ibrahim formally became a candidate of the presidential election.

No confidence motion against Attorney General

During the debate, MDP MP Ahmed Sameer announced that the MDP parliamentary group has prepared a no-confidence motion against Attorney General Azima Shukoor.

Sameer contended that the Attorney General neglected her duties and has advocated on behalf of a political party against the EC, a state institution.

A special sitting of parliament during its ongoing recess has been scheduled for Sunday upon request by 29 MDP MPs.

Deputy leader of PPM’s Parliamentary Group Moosa Zameer told local media outlet CNM today that the PPM would not support such a motion against Shukoor in parliament.

Zameer said that although the PPM had not taken an official stand on the matter, the party would not support removal of its former council member.

However, with the support of at least six out of ten MPs of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – which recently decided to back former President Nasheed in the run-off election – the MDP would have enough votes in parliament to pass the no-confidence motion.


8 thoughts on “MDP proposes changes to Supreme Court bench and no-confidence motion against Attorney General”

  1. Reducing the size of benches at the appeals court and apex court is not an issue.

    However appointment of judges needs to go through a transparent vetting process through which the public can assess the capability of those who are appointed to such crucial posts.

    Also the composition of the JSC needs to be changed - this requires greater consensus in Parliament. The judicial oversight body should include former judges and experts in the field - not politicians.

    The post of Attorney General should be strengthened by making it an independent institution. A person should be appointed to the post through a process which ensures the impartiality and independence of its role in the State. The role of the AG should be expanded to include issuing advice on important points of law and constitutional matters. A change of this sort also requires political consensus.

    So unless such political consensus has been sought and reached, the above motion is purely a political stunt used to counter other ongoing stuns.

  2. The general public is not qualified to offer assessment on candidates for such an institution.

    There must be established a separate body comprised of legal experts in both constitutional law and Islamic jurisprudence - an Assembly of Experts, if you will - who can oversee all public appointments and disqualify candidates if they are unqualified, of poor moral character or if they are women.

    This body should also be tasked with ensuring that all legislative initiatives be bound within the framework of our religious and cultural values.

  3. tsk tsk - Your comment sits profoundly well in a parliamentary model of governance. In a presidential model, I cannot imagine any political scientist agreeing that the Attorney General should be an independent institution. As I see things, the following issues arise from the present quagmire:
    1) We have a malfunctioning judiciary primarily because the presiding justices of the bench are not intellectually equipped to deal with the philosophy of the new constitution and the model of constitutional governance set in motion thereunder. A large majority of the justices at the higher levels of the judiciary are not equipped to be independent jurists of their own right, not able to expound the jurisprudential issues of critical system-related cases being brought before the judges. As a result, these judges fail to do justice in prominent cases, highlighting a nagging worry of public confidence in judiciary;
    2) The remnants of the old system of governance where justice of the benevolent benefactor is given precedence over fairplay and integrity continues to suppress fairness in judicial system. As a result, oft times, the less fortunate victims happen to be the less wealthy. An endemic system of paying retainer fees to the bench by a cortege of lawyers and business houses undermines fairness and justice;
    3) The contraption of the JSC as is embedded in the current Constitution is a misfit to the Presidential model of governance. The justices of the bench at the various levels of the judicial system are appointed by less than qualified judges and persons of interests in the present JSC. This is a failure of the constitution makers in comprehending ground realities that prevails in this country. In a more mature democracy, the current JSC would work perfectly fine in my opinion. However, as is our case, the current judiciary as well as the parliaments that are being voted are stacked against normal functioning of the current JSC model. Hence, in my opinion, serious thinking MPs need to revisit the model of JSC with a view to incorporate in it members who are qualified to vet and assess the judicial bend of mind of the judges being appointed. Furthermore, the permanency of tenure needs to be reconsidered with a view to determining how newly appointed judges function philosophically under the new system. People need to know how justices interpret constitutional principles and the level of fairness and independence with which judges mete out justice under the current new system;
    4) The parliamentary oversight committee in charge of judiciary needs to be more vocal and active and determinate and might I add,intrusive in examining the conduct of judges on the bench and the performance of bodies such as the JSC in order to ensure for the people that corrupt, inept and partial judges do not stay on in the bench for lifetime at the cost of public tax money.

  4. Over the past 5 years, we have discovered numerous gaping holes left in the Constitution that needs to be closed immediately. Some of the more dramatic outcomes of these are:

    (1) Ali Hameed continuing to sit on the Supreme Court bench, despite the fact that he should have been ousted a very long time ago. Reason: on moral and ethical grounds.

    (2) The fiasco over former CSC head Fahmy. Fahmy should have been removed from his post definitively when he was found to be unfit for his role. Reason: failed to adhere to the standards of behaviour required of his office.

    Of course, there have been several other incidents. A new administration should make it a priority to visit these matters and start the process of amending the Constitution.

  5. void ab initio's points are interesting.

    Its been years since I have had to compare, contrast Presidential vs. parliamentary vs. semi-presidential systems, so, I am way out of my league here. But I just think that the general point about the cultural implausibility of an independent Attorney General is terrifying.

  6. And then, it was vuvuzelas, property damage by PPM Ilham and PPM gangsters showing us that despite the fancy pressed suits and ties, they are merely criminal thugs derived from street gangs - and should be treated as such.

    And that's why compromise and dialogue doesnt work; the enemy wants no negotiation. Therefore, we should accept this, and once the elections on 28 September are done with, declare war.

  7. @void ab initio:

    I agree. One tends to get confused sometimes about what system of governance we are practicing in this country.


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