The Supreme Court has today ordered Elections Commission (EC) members not to leave Male’ until a verdict is reached in the ongoing contempt of court case.
EC Director General Mohamed Shakeel has said the order was addressed to all four members separately.
EC President Fuwad Thowfeek has revealed that he yesterday asked the court for a two day medical trip to Sri Lanka.
“I requested to leave from Thursday to Tuesday, but I have now postponed the trip till the case is over,” said Fuwad.
The order came just hours after the court concluded a hearing in the ongoing contempt of court case against the commission today.
Today’s hearing had focused mainly on Thowfeek’s comments about the court’s guidelines, made in the Majlis government oversight committee on Monday.
The judges questioned Thowfeek over his statements, asking if he would follow the guidelines in the coming elections.
Similar comments made by EC members in the same committee were also used by the court in the previous hearing of the trial.
While Article 90 of the constitution provides parliamentary immunity for anything said in the People’s Majlis or it’s committees with the exception of statements “contrary to a tenet of Islam”, Justice Abdulla Didi today repeated his argument that contempt of court is against a tenet of Islam.
Chief Justice Faiz said that, even within the parliament, an ongoing case should not be discussed and when asked about such a case one could object to answering.
Judge and plaintiff in the same case
When Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla asked if Thowfeek had made any comments stating that the court had acted against the constitution, he responded by saying that the judge, plaintiff, and defendant should be three separate people.
He said going against it would be against the spirit of the Constitution and Islamic Shariah.
Justice Abdulla Didi responded by saying that initiating a case on a court’s own accord is practiced in civilised societies and said that the constitution allows referring to practices used in democratic and civilised societies.
When Thowfeek reiterated that the court could not be a plaintiff in their own case, he was interrupted and asked not to create ‘fitna’ (mischief) without proper legal knowledge and warned that such comments could be considered as contempt of court.
The EC Chief later said the court’s Suo Motu regulation is against the spirit of the constitution and that it has created legal some conflicts.
Justice Abdulla Saeed explained that in Islamic Shariah and historical practice in Maldives it was the court or the judge that summoned people, and that prosecution by the state was recent innovation.
When Thowfeek asked if the case against EC was a criminal or a civil case, Justice Abdulla Didi said it was a Suo Motu case.
Following SC guidelines
The second major issue raised at the hearing was the obligation to follow all requirements SC guideline that came with the verdict which annulled the September 7 presidential poll.
Fuwad told the court that it was impossible to gain the signatures of all election candidates as required by the guidelines.
Justice Abdullah Saeed said that “the court verdict is the law and what is meant in the constitution” and warned that EC’s refusal to follow verdicts could prompt members of the public to do the same, leading to lawlessness in the country.
Though he insisted that the EC was willing to follow the verdict, Fuwad said that candidates could not be forced to sign the voters list.
Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla explained the independence and powers of the judiciary, referring to Article 141 (d) and (c) of the constitution and other regulations.
He questioned the rest of the EC members separately about their views on Thowfeek’s comments on the case and the the Supreme Court guidelines.
All members agreed that the guidelines should be followed, but expressed there were difficulties in following these guidelines. Like Thowfeek, the statements of other EC members who tried to detail the difficulties were interrupted by the judges.
Justice Abdulla Didi said that the guidelines were not impossible, and criticised the commission’s spending on ballot boxes in foreign countries such as the UK.
The EC was accused of spending a lot of money on that included “staying in five star hotels”.
Stating that it was against international best practices, he said that if the EC wanted they could send the list to the candidates who refuse to come to Male’ and sign the lists.
EC members were first summoned to the court on February 12 when the court launched the trial on charges of contempt of court under newly introduced ‘Suo Motu’ regulations which allows it to initiate hearings on it’s own accord.
The next hearing of the trial have been scheduled for Sunday at 1400 hours.