Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called the plans to reduce the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench from seven to five unconstitutional.
While speaking to the press before departing for a Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rallys in Haa Dhaalu Atoll, Nasheed accused President Abdulla Yameen of trying to stack the bench in his favor.
“The constitution states the required procedure to bring changes to the bench of the Supreme Court. After extensive legal council we have deliberated that the proposed changes would be unconstitutional,” said Nasheed.
The amendments brought to the parliament by MDP MP Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef have been rejected by the party after the its national executive council convened and voted that the amendments were against its policies.
Speaking about the amendments, MDP Parliamentary Group Leader Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih said Shareef had not consulted the party before he submitted the changes.
However, the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has signaled the party’s support for the amendments with parliamentary group leader Ahmed Nihan said all ruling party MPs would support the proposal and that the PPM would welcome judicial reform.
Presenting the bill to the parliament Shareef said that he believed the number of judges on the apex court was too high for a country the size of the Maldives.
Nasheed had previously said that changing the number of judges on the Supreme Court bench would not amount to judicial reform.
Meanwhile, MDP MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik – who has announced intentions to contest in the MDP’s 2018 presidential primary – appealed for pro-government MPs to cooperate with the party’s efforts to reform the judiciary.
Moosa described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.
Nihan praised both Shareef and Moosa and suggested that the number of judges on the apex court was worth considering.
Former President Nasheed also reiterated party concerns with the annual state budget for the upcoming year which the party has previously labelled as aimless and serving only for administrative purposes.
The Supreme Court has recently been involved in numerous controversies both in and out of the court room.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court used a ‘suo moto’ proceeding – allowing the Court to act as both the plaintiff and the judge – against the Elections Comission (EC).
EC president Fuwad Thowfeek and Vice President Ahmed Fayaz were subsequently charged with contempt of court and disobedience to order, being sentenced to six months in jail after the court used testimony given in the People’s Majlis independent commission’s oversight committee.
More recently, the court employed a similar ‘suo moto’ proceeding against the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) after it criticised the judiciary in its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) for the UN Human Rights Council.
The court charged the HRCM with undermining the constitution and sovereignty of the Maldives by spreading lies about the judiciary. It said that the UPR submission– based on a 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur for Independence of Judges and Lawyers Gabriela Knaul – was “poorly researched”, “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.
Knaul’s report had detailed the pressing need for judicial reform, noting that the five-member transitional Supreme Court had been replaced by a seven-member permanent bench in 2010 with “no legal or constitutional basis”.
June this year also saw Judge Ali Hameed – a sitting judge at the Supreme Court – cleared of a sex tape scandal after three recordings surfaced allegedly showing Ali Hameed engaging in sexual acts with three different woman.