Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain has said the current seven-member bench of the Supreme Court cannot be abolished and will continue to remain as the highest court of the country as long as the Maldives remains a democracy.
The Chief Justice’s remarks come at a time where the Supreme Court has come under heavy criticism from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Last week following two controversial rulings issued by the court, the MDP’s National Council 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.
The party subsequently launched peaceful street protests last Friday against the court rulings. Protesters led by former President Mohamed Nasheed also called on the Supreme Court to refrain from undermining parliament and its decisions.
Speaking during a ceremony held at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Sunday to swear in five new Magistrate Court Judges, Justice Faiz Hussain contended that the only way a judge from the Supreme Court could be removed was if the judge’s position became vacant.
“By the will of Allah, the Supreme Court bench will prevail as long as the Maldives remains a democracy. The bench cannot be changed. A change to the Supreme Court bench can only be brought if a judge’s position becomes vacant,” he said.
The Chief Justice also called upon all the judges to not to fear what the “people from other institutions” say, and advised the judges to not let their emotional sentiments get in the way of fulfilling their legal duties.
He added that every person is entitled with the right to file a case at the court if the person feels that his rights had been compromised, and when the highest court decides on a matter, that decision will be final and binding, and cannot be changed.
Faiz Hussain also said that the court will look into cases filed with them, and the court process would not stop. He added that while there remained the option to settle matters out of court, if a matter came to the court, it would look into that matter.
“A very noble jihad”, says JSC President Adam Mohamed
Meanwhile President of JSC and member of the Supreme Court bench Adam Mohamed followed Chief Justice Faiz Hussain in condemning the efforts of some parliament members to dissolve the court bench.
Justice Adam Mohamed contended that article 54 of the Constitution clearly states as to how a Judge can be removed from a court. Therefore, Mohamed said the efforts led by MDP MPs to change the bench through legislation were unconstitutional.
“While the constitution very clearly mentioning as to how a judge can be removed, It remains very clear that efforts to remove a sitting judge in contrast with the principle laid down in Article 54 of the Constitution is clearly unconstitutional.
The JSC President also called on state institutions to refrain from interfering with the work done by the courts or do anything that could “impact the fairness and impartiality” of the JSC.
“I call upon you not to forget the fact that you are carrying out a very noble jihad in the name of Allah in delivering justice to the people,” he told the judges.
Regarding the removal of judges, Adam Mohamed echoed Chief Justice Faiz Hussain’s remarks stating that claiming that a judge could only be removed by either retirement, resignation or if the parliament successfully removes the judge by a two thirds majority.
Every effort will be made to bring the necessary changes – MDP
During the MDP’s emergency national council meeting held last week, the motion proposed by MDP national council member Mohamed ‘Sanco’ Shareef – which concerned the removal of the existing Supreme Court bench – received unanimous support from all attending members, including former President Mohamed Nasheed.
“The Supreme Court is acting in such a fashion that it has now begun overtaking the powers of the parliament and in the process undermining the constitution of this country. [Therefore] this motion calls on MDP’s parliamentary group to make formal requests to parliament to immediately abolish the current bench of Supreme Court and establish a new bench that consists of honest judges.
“Also as the Maldives Constitution does not bar the Supreme Court having foreign judges, [this motion also calls] to seek qualified and educated judges from abroad,” read the motion (Dhivehi).
The meeting was called in following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn parliament’s removal of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan on sexual harassment charges, and a decision to conduct no-confidence votes through secret ballot.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed during the meeting stated that it was more important that there be a proper justice established in the country rather than him being elected as President.
“To reform the judiciary and bring the justice system of this country into the right course is something I must do,” he said. “We will come out to the streets, we will protest. I will not take a single step back until the bench is replaced with better judges.”
Meanwhile, MDP’s Parliamentary Group and Parliament’s Majority Leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assured the council that the party’s parliamentary group under his leadership would do everything at its hand to ensure the dissolution of the existing Supreme Court bench.