The Supreme Court of the Maldives has today announced that it will conduct a trial on the issue of appointing High Court judges that had originally been scheduled for the country’s Civil Court, amidst ongoing debate over the institution’s right to influence the workings of a higher authority.
The case was first filed in Civil Court last week by Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baary over concerns that there were policy and legal issues related to the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) appointment procedures, such as giving higher priority to appointees on the basis of gender.
Judge Baary claimed in Haveeru at the time that the JSC policy stated that if a female and a male scored even marks, higher priority should be given to the female when appointing judges for the High Court bench. This, he said, was against the Constitution and the Labour Act.
A Writ of Prohibition was issued by the Supreme Court last week in an unprecedented step against the Civil Court designed to order the institution to hand over the case to determine whether it had the authority to deal with the functions of a higher court.
The Supreme Court has today ruled that the issue was a constitutional matter and that the Civil Court did not have the authority to decide on constitutional matters such as the legality of appointing members to the High Court bench.
”If the matter was conducted in the lower court, the case would get appealed and would cause a delay in the appointment of High Court judges which will lead to a loss of basic rights for the administration of justice,” said the Supreme Court in a statement posted on their website.
High Court judges appointed by the JSC last week included Juvenile Court Chief Judge Shuaib Hussein Zakariya, former Law Commission member Dr Azmiralda Zahir, Civil Court registrar Abdu Rauf Ibrahim, lawyer of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Abbas Shareef and Civil Court Chief Judge Ali Sameer.
A JSC spokesperson was unavailable to comment on the issue at the time of going to press, though told Minivan News that the commission had not had any communication with the Supreme Court over today’s decision.