The Supreme Court will hear two separate cases filed against decisions taken within parliament next week.
According to the Supreme Court’s official website, a case lodged by former Civil Services Commission (CSC) Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan against parliament’s decision to impeach him over allegations of sexual harassment is scheduled for January 14.
A separate case will then be held two days later on January 16 concerning the Majlis’ decision to hold no-confidence votes against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and other senior government figures through a secret ballot.
The two cases have been criticised within the People’s Majlis, with some MPs claiming the Supreme Court did not have the jurisdiction to look into matters approved by parliament.
Right to justice
Speaking to Minivan News today, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor accused the Supreme Court of being grossly negligent in carrying out its duties as the country has switched from an autocratic system of governance to a democratic one in 2008.
Ghafoor contended that the Supreme Court’s conduct had been contrary to keeping the powers of the state both independent and separate.
“Due to this negligence, it has allowed incompetent, insincere judges to take over all the ranks of the judiciary, disregarding the article 285 of the constitution. Now, the validity of both Supreme Court and High Court is limited and restricted due to its failure to establish a proper legitimate judiciary,” he said.
“We don’t see justice being served, to be honest, the people of this country have lost their right to justice. I don’t see true justice being established in the country, not as long as they are here.”
The Henveiru South constituency MP also accused the Supreme Court of failing to specify its reasons behind decisions taken on constitutional matters.
“They are failing to grasp the intentions of the constitutional assembly that drafted the constitution. Why are they failing to refer to the meeting minutes of the assembly to understand their intentions as a tool to interpret the constitution? This is what happens when you don’t have a competent judiciary, they fail to grasp the spirit of the constitution,” he claimed.
The Supreme Court last month issued two separate injunctions ordering parliament to withhold selection of a CSC president to replace Fahmy and to halt scheduling impeachment votes against President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik and Home Minister Mohamed Jameel Ahmed.
The Supreme Court in both injunctions claimed that it needed to review the legality of the concerned issues in line with “necessary constitutional and legal principles” that had to be followed.
Responding to the injunctions issued by the Supreme Court, Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed has said in a personal press video that the powers stated in article 88 of the constitution were given to parliament to execute its duties. Nasheed added that the powers outlined in the article should not be restricted by the country’s courts.
“The article 88 (b) of the constitution is a power given to the parliament to execute its duties. It should not be confused with the recently passed privileges bill. What article 88(b) states that no court of law can question the decisions reached by the parliament,” he said.
“The Article 88(b) of the constitution states – ‘Unless otherwise specified in this Constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People’s Majlis (Parliament) shall not be questioned in any court of law.’ It is for a reason that this clause was included in the constitution. This is a principle adopted by parliaments across the world. I don’t know the Arabic word for that, but in English it is known as ‘Exclusive Cognizance,’” he explained.
Nasheed contended that article 88 (b) outlined powers that should be exclusive to parliament and all courts of law should respect the legislature. He claimed that a failure to respect parliament could mean every decision reached in the Majlis would be challenged.
“For example, even in a football game, though a team may be very upset by a decision of the referee, the play continues. They don’t go to court and seek an injunction so that match would be halted until a court decides on the matter. Neither is the decision overruled. The game continues,” Nasheed argued.
“What is happening right now could mean that if a player is shown a red card or a yellow card, the team who is unhappy about the referee would stop playing and go to court and seek an injunction to hold the play until the court reaches a verdict. Imagine what will happen if such practice takes hold.”
Former CSC Chair Fahmy was impeached from parliament in June last year over allegations of sexual harassment against an employee. The decision was reached after a debate on the report, which was produced by Parliament’s Committee on Independent Institutions.
Following much debate in parliament, Nasheed stated that the Committee on Independent Institutions had mandate over the CSC and it did not need to conduct a criminal investigation to remove Fahmy from his post.
“What we applied are widely accepted civil standards. Based on our findings, 7 out of the 10 committee members decided that it was more likely that Fahmy had committed this act than that he did not. And that is enough to remove him from his post,” Nasheed said.
The subsequent no-confidence vote to remove Fahmy passed by a majority of 38 to 32 votes. However, Fahmy filed a case at Supreme Court contending that he was removed from his position unlawfully.
Back in October meanwhile, the MDP proposed a no-confidence motion against President Waheed claiming that the police and the military had “brutalised” its supporters on February 8 under direct orders from the president himself.
The MDP also alleged that President Waheed had destroyed the sensitive economy of the nation and adversely impacted investor confidence in the Maldives.
Other reasons, the MDP alleged, included the failure of President Waheed’s administration to curb gang violence in the country, as well as his government taking a loan worth MVR 300 million (US$19.5 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) without prior approval from parliament – a violation of Public Finance Act and Public Finance Regulation.
The MDP subsequently proposed the amendment to parliamentary regulation which would pave the way for a secret ballot in the vote to impeach President Waheed. However, the first attempt, despite approval from parliament’s General Affairs Committee was defeated in parliament by 39 to 34 votes.
Parliament last month passed the amendment when it was again re-submitted and approved with a 41 to 34 majority. The approval was backed by two government aligned parties, the Jumhoree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP).
The amendment was also later challenged in the Supreme Court.