The Supreme Court on Sunday held the first hearing of the case concerning the legitimacy of Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
The case was filed by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and is being heard by the entire seven member bench of the Supreme Court. Respondent in the case was lawyer Ismail Wisham.
Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team also sought to intervene in the court case. Nasheed’s lawyers stated that the case involved the interests of the former president as his case regarding the detention of the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed is being looked by Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
At the beginning of the trial, the former Attorney General Husnu al Suood, who was representing the respondent raised procedural points whereby he argued that Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla could not sit in the bench since he was also the President of the JSC, which therefore amounted to “presumption of bias”.
However, the Supreme Court rejected the procedural points.
“We understand no reasons were given by the Supreme Court as to the why it decided to not hear the case submitted by the MDP,” the party said in a subsequent press statement. “We believe this goes against the principles of Natural Justice. As a party which will be affected by the decision of the Supreme Court, we believe the MDP has locus standi and as such has the right to be heard.”
Speaking on during case, the respondents argued that according to the existing law, there were no legal basis to support the legal existence of Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, which had been formed in contradiction to the constitution and the Judicature Act article 53.
Judicature Act Article 53(e) states that if four divisions of the four superior courts are established in one island, then “the magistrate court of that island will be abolished. And if a division from among the four courts is established in an island, matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the relevant court shall be carried out by the relevant division and not by the magistrate court.”
The respondent’s lawyer claimed that with reference to the constitution and the Decentralisation Act, it was clear that Hulhumale’ and Villimale are now considered as a part of Male’ even though they are geographically two islands, therefore a magistrate court cannot be set up in any of the islands which under the law are now considered wards.
The intervening Nasheed’s lawyers also echoed similar remarks on the case. Nasheed’s lawyers requested a period of three days to research the documents – which they claimed to have only received just a few minutes before the hearing – but were denied the opportunity.
The JSC lawyers who filed the case argued that Hulhumale’ and Villimale were only considered as a part of Male’ for administrative purposes and that this argument did not have any legal basis. Therefore, they stated, Hulhumale’ should be “judicially” considered a separate island.
The lawyers also claimed that the court was set up with the intention of providing easy access to justice for the people of Hulhumale. They also claimed that according to the Judicature Act article 66, each island must have a magistrate court and that prior to the passing of the Act, the court had been functioning as an island court.
The artice 66 states – “A Magistrate Court shall be established in all inhabited islands with the exception of Male’ where there are the four superior courts created in accordance with Article 53(b) of this Act and in an island where four divisions of these four superior courts are established in accordance with Article 53 (c) of this Act.”
Responding to the claims of the JSC, the respondents stated that based on the documents presented to the court, the Hulhumale court was formed to function as a section of Civil Court and Family Court prior to the passing of the Judicature Act.
The added that only island courts were to be declared as magistrate courts according to the judicature act and since Hulhumale Court was a section of the superior courts, it cannot be declared as a magistrate court according to the Judicature Act.
Supreme Court, adjourning today’s sessions did not mention of the next date the hearings would be scheduled.
The case concerning the legitimacy of Hulhumale Magistrate Court was filed by the JSC in earlier this month, asking the Supreme Court to decide on the matter.
Meanwhile, Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) have repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Member of Nasheed’s legal team, lawyer Hisaan Hussain during a press conference held earlier this month, stated that they felt it would be unjust for the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to be presiding over any case after Nasheed’s case was temporarily halted over allegations of the court being unlawfully established.
The Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court held the first hearing of Nasheed’s case on October 9. The second hearing had been scheduled for November 4, which was cancelled following the injunction granted Sunday morning by the High Court.
Nasheed’s legal team has previously raised concerns about the legality of the Hulhumale’ court, citing Article 141 (a) of the Constitution and Articles 53 (b) and 62 of the Maldives Judicature Act.
Following the hearing, the MDP in its statement argued that the head of the JSC sitting on the bench during a trial concerning the JSC was against natural justice, and grounds for taking the case to the International Court of Justice.
“That no man shall be his own judge and jury is a fundamental principle of Natural Justice. The Supreme Court decides cases on simple majority and the president of a body that is the appellant and as such a party to the litigation and in which one of the issues is the legality of its own acts, should be disqualified from sitting as a judge in this case,” the party said.
“We are thinking of instructing lawyers to take up this case in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). After all once such basic principles of justice are ignored in our highest court of appeal, it paves the way for appeal to the ICJ.”