The Supreme Court has allegedly requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to look into the procedures of how the Maldives Bar Association was formed claiming that the use of the word ‘Bar’ in the association’s name was leading to “confusion” among international legal and judicial groups.
The Maldives Bar Association was formed in April to empower, lobby and advocate on behalf of legal practitioners. It was also charged with addressing problems faced by lawyers within the judiciary. The association is currently headed by veteran lawyer and former Attorney General, Husnu Al Suood.
In a letter obtained by Minivan News, allegedly sent by the Supreme Court to the Ministry on May 5, the apex court claimed that in other developed countries, the phrase “Bar” referred to a formal statutory body that represents the entire legal community, unlike the current Maldives Bar Association which is an NGO.
“The newly registered ‘Bar Association’ is an NGO belonging only to its founding members, and considering the confusion that may arise due to a group of individuals using such a name, the judges panel of Supreme Court have on April 30 decided to request the Home Ministry to look into the matter,” read the letter.
Meanwhile, in a second letter, the Ministry of Home Affairs responded to the Supreme Court’s letter stating that prior to the registration of the association, the ministry had consulted with the Attorney General’s office regarding the name.
In response, the ministry stated that the Attorney General did not object to the name, but had requested it reserve the name ‘Maldives Bar Council’ – an institution that is yet to be established under the proposed Legal Practitioners Bill, which the Attorney General’s office is currently in the process of drafting.
Speaking to Minivan News, Maldives Bar Association Secretary General Anas Abdul Sattar disputed the Supreme Court’s view that the term ‘Bar’ was limited to formal statutory bodies.
“Even in India, there is the Bombay Bar Association. The Bombay Bar Council which was formed by a statute came to existence much later, but the bar association still continues to function,” Sattar contended.
Sattar said that Supreme Court was not making the right decision if it were to contend that the term ‘bar’ must only be limited to formal and statutory institutions.
Meanwhile, an attorney working closely with the association told Minivan News on condition of anonymity that the Supreme Court was upset about international organisations recognising the association.
“The Supreme Court was informing those organisations that the Maldives did not have a bar council. They then claimed that they would like to affiliate with the bar association, and that the association satisfied their criterion,” the attorney said.
“If you look into the details, Supreme Court is currently not affiliated with any such organisations and they seemed pretty upset when the international legal community started to recognise the association,” he added.
Minivan News contacted the Supreme Court for a response, but the official demanded formal enquiries in writing and said the court would “respond if appropriate”.
The Supreme Court’s letter challenging the bar association follows its vocal calls for the suspension of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, following the release of multiple sex tapes featuring the judge.
Hameed is under investigation by both the police and JSC over the circulation of at least three sex videos apparently depicting him fornicating with unidentified foreign women.
In a previous statement, the association challenged the independence and transparency of any Judicial Service Commission (JSC) investigation into the matter that proceeded without first suspending the judge.
The Maldives Bar Association claimed that it was “against principles adopted in modern democratic societies” to allow Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed to remain on the bench while he faced allegations of adultery and other concerning conduct.