EC dismissals: “Falsified” accounts by international community undermining judiciary, says Chief Justice

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz has accused the international community of fabricating lies regarding the Supreme Court’s verdict against the Elections Commission (EC).

In doing so, “they have engaged in a battle against the constitution with an independent nation”, said Faiz.

The Chief Justice released a statement strongly condemning statements released by the US State Department and the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

These voices of disapproval were joined today by Australia, which has similarly expressed concern over recent developments, noting its “firm expectation” that scheduled elections will go ahead “in a manner that is free, fair, credible and peaceful”.

In his response to such comments, Faiz claimed that neither international countries nor organisations have the authority to criticise and spread falsifications regarding any verdict of the Supreme Court.

Claims by the international community that the apex court is unduly influencing the work of the EC and undermining their independence is against the truth, argued the chief justice.

“I would like to say that these statements regarding a Supreme Court verdict in an internal legal case of the Maldives are inclusive of falsified claims, and undermine the respect and authority of the Maldivian judiciary,” said Faiz.

“They are thus an irresponsible act by the international community, one conducted without observing the events occurring in the Maldives or getting clarifications of the matter from local authorities. I thereby strongly condemn these statements,” the statement read.

“The Maldives is a free and independent state. It is a sovereign state which rules over itself. The releasing of falsified accounts and statements of the Maldives’ Supreme Court’s actions to fulfill its legal obligations is neither an assistance towards consolidating democracy in the Maldives nor towards maintaining rule of law or strengthening of the justice system.”

Faiz emphasized that he would continue to fulfill his legal obligations concerning the mandates of the courts, and that he would do so without any hesitation towards or consideration of international opinion.

Challenging the Supreme Court

Faiz also condemned local groups’ criticism of the verdict. The Maldivian Democratic Party and the Majlis secretariat have both deemed the ruling unconstitutional.

Faiz stated that the most important duty of the apex court is to establish justice, rule of law and to maintain the empowerment of law, and the constitution requires that the Supreme Court has the final say in the interpretation of laws.

He further noted that it was the constitutional responsibility of all state authorities to maintain the respect and positive reputation of the courts.

“While this is so, when the few persons in charge of running the matters of the state repeatedly challenged the verdicts of the Supreme Court and undermined the respect towards the courts, it was an act that certainly eroded people’s trust in one branch of the state and an act that paved the way to the obliteration of the foundation of the Supreme Court,” Faiz continued.

“There is no doubt that the failure to take action against such acts – despite them becoming alarmingly common – negatively affects the Constitution of the Maldives and casts a shadow over the courts of law.”

“It is an incontestable reality that it is a danger to our constitution when there are matters in the judiciary which need to be reformed through the joint efforts of all state authorities, and instead of constructive work to achieve this, the courts are challenged and the judiciary is attacked.”

Faiz concluded the statement asserting that he will continue to work according to his mandate regardless of the criticism that comes his way, and without any hesitation despite any criticisms or obstacles that may be put forth by international organisations and foreign countries.


Nasheed warns Supreme Court against interference in Majlis elections

Former President Mohamed Nasheed warned Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain last night against Supreme Court interference in the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for March 22.

Speaking at a campaign launching ceremony for two Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) candidates, Nasheed said last year’s presidential election was “taken away from us by the Supreme Court.”

“The island council, atoll council, and city council elections have slipped from their fingers by God’s will while they were unaware. Now we are coming to the People’s Majlis elections again. If the People’s Majlis election is stopped, you could not place a bigger obstacle to the country’s development,” he said.

Supreme Court Justices “should know very well that the people of the Maldives will not forgive,” Nasheed said.

“And do not think that the courage of the Maldivian people has flagged. No, when they have to take to the streets, they will,” he said.

“If you decide to halt our elections, remember that we live on this land too. Keep in my mind, our Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz, know that we too grew up in this island. As long as we are on this soil, you cannot keep perpetrating injustices against our people.”

The Maldivian people were not indifferent or willing to “remain in a state of shock or fear,” Nasheed continued, adding that the people have “found courage from one another and moved past their fear”.

“We cannot remain still, we cannot give up the hope of our children and children’s children, we cannot give up the Maldives,” he said.

Suo motu

The Supreme Court summoned members of the Elections Commission (EC) on February 12 and began a surprise trial on charges of contempt of court. The apex court invoked new ‘Sumoto’ or ‘Suo motu’ regulations that allow the court to initiate hearings and act as both prosecutor and judge in a trial.

The court contends that criticism by EC members of its decision to annul the first round of last year’s presidential election – citing a secret police report that has since been dismissed by a UN expert review and questioned by the Human Rights Commission of Maldives – constituted contempt of court.

Nasheed meanwhile declared last week that the MDP will boycott the parliamentary elections if the Supreme Court removes EC members ahead of next month’s polls.

Speaking at a campaign event on the night before EC members were summoned, Nasheed accused parties in the ruling coalition of colluding with the Supreme Court to delay the Majlis elections as they were “certain of defeat.”

“In my view, an election conducted with the Supreme Court exerting influence over the Elections Commission to deliberately commit electoral fraud or rig the vote will not be a legitimate election – in my view, MDP should not participate in such an election,” Nasheed said.

Neither the international community nor the Maldivian public would accept general elections boycotted by the MDP, he insisted.

In his speech at a campaign launching ceremony on Monday night for MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy, Nasheed said judicial reform was the most pressing issue facing the Maldives at present.

Neither the chief justice nor other judges should think that the public would cease calls for reform or stop criticising the judiciary “out of fear,” he said, declaring that the party would “not back down in the slightest”.

Referring to the alleged sex tape of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, Nasheed said the party’s concern was not with Hameed’s indiscretions but with the presence of “compromised” judges on the bench who were susceptible to “blackmail”.

While the new constitution was adopted to move away from the autocratic and unjust practices of the past, the Supreme Court has taken on powers to investigate, prosecute, conduct trial, and deliver verdicts on their own accord, Nasheed said.

“The fundamental basis of the reform that the Maldivian people wanted was ensuring that the prosecutor and the court that hears the case are separate. Persons must have the assistance of a lawyer to defend themselves from accusation of a crime,” he said.

“It is the prosecutor general who should prosecute on behalf of the state. We wanted to see separated powers of state [but] today we are seeing the Supreme Court negate the character of the constitution we wished for.”


Supreme Court orders Majlis to expedite PG appointment

The Supreme Court issued an order Thursday night instructing “all relevant state institutions” to expedite the appointment of a new Prosecutor General (PG).

The apex court order (Dhivehi) noted that the constitution did not envision the post remaining vacant and stipulates that it must be filled within 30 days of a vacancy.

Referring to the “principle of necessity” and the importance of the criminal justice system continuing to function to ensure rule of law, the Supreme Court also ordered trial courts to accept and proceed with cases submitted by the Prosecutor General’s office.

Following the lapse of the 30-day period for the parliament to appoint a replacement for former PG Ahmed Muiz, the Criminal Court decided to halt all ongoing cases pending the appointment.

Muiz submitted his resignation on November 25 last year, shortly before parliament was set to debate a no-confidence motion against him.

In late January, Deputy PG Hussain Shameem wrote to the Supreme Court seeking its assistance in resolving the dispute.

Shameem told Minivan News at the time that there were more than 150 cases at the office that needed to be filed at the Criminal Court, including cases of suspects held in pre-trial detention.

“So what do they do now, it would not be fair to keep them in there until the parliament comes back to work from recess after three months and appoint a new PG,’’ Shameem said.

On December 10, President Abdulla Yameen nominated his nephew Maumoon Hameed to the post of Prosecutor General.

The nominee was forwarded to parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee for review.

The committee’s chair, MP Ahmed Sameer – who recently defected from the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party to the government-aligned Jumhooree Party – told newspaper Haveeru shortly after the Supreme Court issued its order that the vetting process was stalled due to lack of cooperation from political parties.

While a committee meeting scheduled to take place during the ongoing recess to interview the nominee was canceled upon request by pro-government MPs, a second attempt to hold the meeting was unsuccessful because MDP MPs opposed it.

“I am ready to hold the meeting even tonight if they request it,” the MP for Haa Alif Dhidhoo was quoted as saying.


Supreme Court orders JSC to halt transfer of judges

Supreme Court has released a mandamus order on Monday halting the judicial oversight body’s decision to shuffle ten superior court judges.

The order states the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) does not have absolute powers to transfer and promote judges.

Unless a court is liquidated no judge can be transferred to another court unless by the explicit decision of the Judicial Council, the Supreme Court said.

The Supreme Court has previously annulled the Judicial Council and taken over the council’s powers. The JSC has been notified of the move and hence is mandated to discuss any shuffle of judges with the Supreme Court, the order said.

“The Judicial Service Commission’s decision dated December 9, 2013 – where without any contribution of the Supreme Court – the JSC decided to transfer judges of the Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family Court, Drug Court and Juvenile Court from one court to another from January 1, 2014 is hereby overturned, and we notify Judicial Services Commission, concerned courts and other concerned authorities that it cannot be acted upon,” the order signed by Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain reads.

JSC disregarded Chief Justice’s objections

Earlier in December, the Chief Justice sent a letter to the JSC objecting to the transfer, presenting the same arguments as in Monday’s mandamus order.

The JSC had at the time decided to disregard the objections, saying it lacked legal grounds.

“Even under the constitution and the JSC Act, the commission is vested with the power to transfer the judges,” JSC representative from the parliament Ahmed Hamza said at the time.

“Order is baseless but will abide by it”

Hamza stated that the JSC still maintains that its decision is a legally justified one.

“When the next term of parliament begins, we will work on this matter from within the parliament. Meanwhile, the JSC’s position is clear: we maintain our stand that our decision to transfer judges is legal and within our powers,” Hamza told Minivan News today.

“By releasing this order, the Supreme Court has undermined the powers vested in the JSC by the constitution. I do not accept that the Supreme Court has the power to do so,” he continued.

“The Supreme Court usually overrules things when someone files a case there, not of their own initiative as in this instance. It is very surprising how this has come about.”

However, Hamza stated that as the objection has come in the form of a Supreme Court order, the JSC will have to follow it.

JSC Member appointed from the public Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman stated that while the order held the same reasoning as the letter previously sent by Faiz, the JSC will abide by it as it has now come in the form of an apex court order.

However, commenting further in private capacity, Shuaib described the Supreme Court’s reasoning as “irrational”.

“The reasoning presented in the order itself is irrational, and off the topic. The only legal connection that they can show is Article 47 of the Judges Act. The thing is they are talking about the Judicial Council, which has been made void. How can they refer to something that has already been made void? The articles that the Supreme Court have pointed out in the order have nothing to do with the JSC,” Shuaib said.

Shuaib said that he does not accept the Supreme Court can adopt the duties of the Judicial Council after the council itself has been ruled void.


MP Hamid files complaint against Chief Justice

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor has submitted a complaint against Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain at the judicial oversight body Judicial Services Commission (JSC) over the Supreme Court’s decision to annul articles of the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

In November, the Supreme Court struck down four clauses in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act including Article 11 (a) which states that an MP cannot be summoned to court during Majlis work hours.

At the time, the Criminal Court had sentenced Hamid to six months in jail for failure to attend a separate trial on refusal to provide urine. Hamid had contended the hearings were scheduled during Majlis work hours, in violation of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act  and as such he was not obliged to attend the hearings.

Hamid had been under house arrest but was jailed following the Supreme Court’s verdict. However, the High Court struck down the Criminal Court’s sentence and set Hamid free.

In his complaint, Hamid said the Supreme Court’s verdict had caused him injustice.

“When the Supreme Court released constitutional ruling number SC-C/2013/28 on November 12, 2013 regarding a number of parliamentary privileges, Chief Justice of the Maldives Supreme Court was aware that at the same time, I,  a member of Parliament, was under house arrest regarding a case on parliamentary privileges. At a time when there were public allegations that the Criminal Court had then acted towards me against parliamentary privileges, the Chief Justice failed to consider the injustices that may be done unto me by releasing the prior-mentioned ruling at such a time,” Hamid’s complaint stated.

A statement released by the MDP states that if the said act was done “deliberately and knowingly” by the Chief Justice, it was an injustice caused to Hamid. It then said that if, however, the Chief Justice was unaware of the facts when the Supreme Court released the ruling, it is then proof that he is “unfit for and incapable of fulfilling his mandate”.

Head Judge of the High Court Panel that overturned the Criminal Court’s sentence, Judge Yoosuf Hussain had said at the court hearing that the Parliamentary Privileges Act at the time of sentencing still had a clause stating that members of parliament cannot be summoned to court in a manner that will inconvenience their attendance to parliament meetings.

Judge Hussain said that due to this reason, Hamid’s failure to attend hearings cannot be judged as having been without a justified reason.

He further stated that the lower court had failed to follow due process to be observed in the instance that a court summons cannot be delivered to a person, and if their families refuse to accept the summons on their behalf.

The judge said that as a result of this failure, the High Court does not believe the lower court had grounds to act against MP Hamid in this instance.

JSC Member appointed from among the public Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman stated that he is unaware of the complaint yet.

“After a complaint is submitted to the JSC, it will be looked into by the legal section. Once they complete the process, it will come to the commission members along with their legal opinion. So it will take some time before we see this complaint,” he explained.

Senior Legal and Complaints Officer Hassan Faheem Ibrahim said that the legal department has not received the complaint at the time of press.


JSC to disregard chief justice’s objection to transferring judges

The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) – the state watch-dog of the judiciary – has today (December 12) decided to disregard the letter sent to the commission by the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain objecting to its decision to transfer judges between Superior Courts.

The letter, sent by Chief Justice Faiz on Tuesday to JSC Chair and fellow Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed, stated that the commission’s decision to shuffle superior court judges was not valid as the commission did not have the necessary legal authority.

JSC member MP Ahmed Hamza – the parliament’s representative to the commission – told local media today that the commission members had discussed the letter sent by the chief justice, but the majority held the view that the objections towards the decision lacked any legal grounds.

“Even under the constitution and the JSC Act, the commission is vested with the power to transfer the judges,” Hamza told local newspaper Haveeru.

Speaking to Minivan News, JSC Member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman confirmed that such the decision.

However, the Secretary General of JSC Abu Bakuru told Minivan News that “although the matter had been discussed by the commission members, the JSC has not yet formally made the decision”.

Chief Justice Faiz in his letter to JSC claimed that, although Article 159(a) gives the JSC the authority to appoint, promote or transfer judges other than those from the Supreme Court, it “must not be interpreted as an absolute right”.

Faiz also contended that the Judges’ Act mandated that any transfer of a judge from his appointed court can only be carried out following deliberation with the Judicial Council – the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court .

List of Transferees

The JSC had earlier decided to shuffle nine judges from the superior courts based in the capital Male’, including the Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed who was to be transferred to the Drug Court.

Judge Abdulla Mohamed has previously been under investigation from the JSC, for allegations of ethical misconduct and obstruction of corruption investigations among others.

Apart from Judge Abdulla Mohamed, the JSC had also planned to transfer Criminal Court Judge Muhuthaaz Fahmy and the Acting Chief Judge of Juvenile Court Mohamed Naeem to the Drug Court.

Meanwhile, Drug Court Judges Mohamed Easa Fulhu and Zubair Mohamed and the Family Court Judge Ibrahim Ali were to be transferred to the Criminal Court.

The JSC also decided to transfer Family Court Judge Hassan Shafeeu to the Civil Court and Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baaree Yoosuf – currently serving an indefinite suspension by the JSC following a case of sexually assaulting a female state prosecutor – was set to be transferred to the Juvenile Court.

Article 159(a) of the Maldives Constitution states that, “The Judicial Services Commission is entrusted with the responsibility and power to appoint, promote and transfer Judges other the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, and to make recommendations to the President on the appointment of the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court”.

Meanwhile Section 49 of the Judges’ Act 2010 refers to temporary transfer of judges from one court to another and states, “Temporary appointment of a Judge to preside over cases in a court will be decided upon by the Judicial Services Commission under the advice of the Judicial Council”.


President disappointed with “ill-informed and irresponsible allegations” by UN human rights chief

President Dr Mohamed Waheed has expressed disappointment with the “ill-informed and irresponsible allegations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay”.

Pillay last week blamed the Supreme Court’s repeated interventions in the presidential election process for what she described as “the dangerous drift in the democratic process in the Maldives”.

“The government of Maldives rejects the claim that the Supreme Court and the Government are subverting the democratic process,” read a President’s Office statement.

“The United Nations must try to better understand the difficulties facing Maldives in their early phase of democracy, and provide support to find solutions rather than issue damaging statements from a distance,” the statement added.

The High Commissioner’s comment “undermines efforts of Maldives Supreme Court and the government to strengthen the Rule of Law in the country.”

Waheed’s rejection of Pillay’s criticism follows the response of the court’s Chief Justice, Ahmed Faiz, who quickly labelled the High Commissioner’s statements “irresponsible” and “poorly researched”.

“I harshly condemn UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay’s  false allegations regarding the Maldives Supreme Court’s work to uphold its constitutional duties and responsibilities. I do not believe she has any authority to speak in such terms,” stated Faiz soon after Pillay’s statement on Wednesday (October 30).

Following allegations of voter fraud following an otherwise-applauded September 7 poll, the Supreme Court annulled the vote after ruling that over 5,600 ineligible votes had been cast.

The ruling was based on a confidential police report, kept secret from both the public and the Elections Commission’s defence lawyers. A leaked copy of this report has emerged this week (English).

After a second election date had been scheduled for October 19, polling was again delayed after police argued that the court’s 16 point guideline had not been followed when two of the three candidates refused to assign their names to the new voter lists.

Pillay’s statement last week described the 16 point guidelines as “onerous”. She also pointed to the international community’s longstanding concerns over judicial independence in the Maldives.

In the context of such criticism, the UK Bar Human Rights Committee has described the decision to annul the election as “troubling”.

The latest date set for the first round of the election is November 9, with a potential re-run scheduled for seven days later.

President Waheed – whose constitutionally mandated term expires on November 11 – returned to the country on Thursday night following “a private visit to Singapore and Hong Kong.”

Waheed was reported in local media today as saying that the current constitution is in major need of revision.

“We have found out that the political system we have introduced is in need of changes so that our nation will not continue upon suicidal track,” the President was quoted as saying at an India Maldives Friendship Association function on Friday night.

The People’s Majlis has approved a motion for presidential power to pass to the Speaker of the House Abdulla Shahid during this interim period, although although government-aligned politicians have continued to suggest that the opinion of the Supreme Court should be sought on this matter.

In its initial election annulment verdict, the court the court had ruled that Waheed would be able to remain in power even after the expiry of his presidential term, citing the continuity of government principle.

Waheed has meanwhile claimed that he has no interest in remaining president “even a day beyond November 11”.


Chief Justice threatens action against dissemination of “invalid information”

Legal action will be taken against media organisations or journalists who disseminate false or inauthentic information concerning the judiciary, Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain has warned.

Speaking at a swearing-in ceremony yesterday (October 27) for seven new judges to the superior courts, the Chief Justice warned of measures against those who report “invalid information, if it relates to courts or judges.”

“Citizens need valid information. Freedom of expression means expressing valid or authentic information. Whether it is information relating to individuals or state institutions, the information conveyed should be valid, there should be no error or deceit in the information,” he said.

“If the court is held in contempt, action will be taken,” he asserted. “I will not allow the court to be [held in] contempt through deception. If the court is [held in] contempt, I will do what I can within the bounds of the law,” Faiz added.

The Chief Justice’s remarks came after the Supreme Court last week ordered police to investigate opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV for airing a report on October 19 criticising the judiciary.

Raajje TV News Department Head Ibrahim ‘Asward’ Waheed was summoned to the police headquarters last night concerning the investigation of the report, which raised issues surrounding the leaked sex tape of Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed.

Following the police interrogation, Asward told local media that he was accused of contempt of court over the Raajje TV report criticising the apex court.

Asward said he exercised the right to remain silent in protest of the police taking over the mandate of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) and the Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) – the institutions legally empowered to investigate complaints regarding the content of media outlets.

Both the MCC and MBC have expressed concern with the court ordered investigation of Raajje TV, contending that it threatens press freedom and encroaches on the mandate of the media watchdog bodies.

Appealing to the apex court to withdraw the order to investigate, Mohamed Shaheeb from the MBC told local media yesterday that he was informed by Commissioner of Police Abdulla Riyaz that the police were obliged to obey the Supreme Court’s order.

Following an arson attack that destroyed the headquarters of Raajje TV on October 7, Reporters Without Borders criticised the police’s failure to defend the station despite repeated requests for protection.

Moreover, Asward was attacked with an iron bar in February this year while Raajje TV’s offices were vandalised in 2012, with cables severed in the station’s control room.

Judicial reform

Faiz meanwhile contended that altering the composition of the 10-member Judicial Service Commission (JSC) –  consisting of three representatives each from the executive, legislature and judiciary as well as a lawyer elected by licensed practitioners – was necessary to strengthen the judiciary.

In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriela Knaul, stated that there was near unanimous consensus during her visit that the composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised.”

The issue was also highlighted in a report by the International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) in 2010.

“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” said Knaul.

While the composition of the JSC in the Maldivian constitution was based on the South African model, Faiz said in his speech yesterday that he was told by a retired South African judge that the model had “failed” in his country.

“A lot of people believe that every fault of the JSC is reflected in the judiciary,” Faiz said, adding that proper functioning of the oversight body would benefit the judiciary.

The JSC should work together with the courts following extensive consultation to implement changes to strengthen the judiciary, Faiz suggested.

The JSC should also expedite investigations of complaints concerning judges and “free” them from the allegations to ensure public confidence in the “integrity of judges,” he said.

“If not, the issues we are facing now, what is being said [about the judiciary] now will continue in the same vein,” Faiz said.

However, he added, criticism of the judiciary or “a complaint against a judge” does not warrant disregarding court judgments.

“If the decisions of the courthouse are not enforced, rule of law will not be maintained in this country. The courthouse has been entrusted with upholding rule of law. So the decisions of courts should be and will be enforced in this country,” Faiz asserted.

Under no circumstances could the enforcement of a court decision be delayed or ignored, he stressed.

Faiz revealed that he had spoken to the speaker of parliament regarding a recent Supreme Court judgment, referring to the apex court disqualifying two MPs over an alleged decreed debt.

“I told him that the Supreme Court’s decision must be enforced. There is no question about it. Who will determine if the Supreme Court’s decision is legitimate? Who will determine if the Supreme Court decision was made in accordance with the procedures? It will still be determined by the Supreme Court,” Faiz said.


MDP calls on Supreme Court to remain within “legal ambit of the constitution”

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called on the Supreme Court to “restrain itself to the legal ambit of the constitution” in an open letter from the party’s chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik to Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain on Tuesday (September 24).

The party contended that its lawyers Hassan Latheef and Hisaan Hussain were “unlawfully suspended” by the apex court in ongoing proceedings of the Jumhooree Party’s case against the Elections Commission (EC) seeking annulment of the first round of the presidential election on September 7.

Despite the Maldivian Democratic Party’s legal team claiming that proceedings cannot be held without their representation, the court’s decision to proceed regardless is in breach of the constitution, laws, regulation and juridical norms adhered to in the Maldives thus far,” the letter stated.

“Furthermore, it is of concern that during the proceedings there was apparent deferential treatment towards other parties to the case. Therefore, considering the manner in which the court has acted during these proceedings thus far, and since the party believes that proceedings will not continue in a way which guarantees the rights of the 95,000 people who publicly shown support for the party, this party wishes to revoke its inter-partes claim to the motion filed at the court.”

The MDP lawyers along with EC lawyer Husnu Suood were barred from proceedings by the Supreme Court yesterday for publicly criticising the court’s order indefinitely postponing the second round run-off of the presidential election scheduled for September 28.

“Journey to Justice”

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s stay order (Dhivehi) on Monday night (September 23), the party’s National Council passed a resolution approving continuous protests until a date was given for the run-off election.

MDP Spokesperson Hamed Abdul Ghafoor described the Supreme Court’s suspension of the election pending a judgment on the JP’s case as “a cynical attempt by President [Mohamed] Nasheed’s political opponents to delay an election they feared they were likely to lose.”

Nasheed emerged as the front runner in the first round of the polls with 45.45 percent (95,224 votes), followed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) candidate Abdulla Yameen who received 25.35 percent (53,099 votes). The JP candidate Gasim Ibrahim narrowly missed out on the run-off with 24.07 percent (50,422) and contested the results at the Supreme Court alleging electoral fraud.

The JP and the PPM welcomed the Supreme Court injunction as a positive step towards ensuring a free and fair election. PPM candidate Abdulla Yameen told Minivan News that there was “nothing unconstitutional” with the court order.

“The Elections Commission got the opportunity to argue out their case and establish the credibility of the process,” he said.

The MDP yesterday relaunched its “Journey to Justice” demonstration at the Raalhugadu (surf point) area of the capital Male’ – 18 months after being evicted from the site by security forces – where it had set up a protest camp in February 2012 following former President Mohamed Nasheed’s resignation in what the party has maintained was a “coup d’etat” instigated by mutinous elements of the police and military working with the then-opposition.

The MDP chairperson’s letter to the Chief Justice meanwhile called upon the highest court of appeal to “uphold Article 8 of the Constitution [which] states that all powers of the State shall be exercised in accordance with the Constitution, Article 299 sub-article (a) that states that the administrators of justice shall wholly comply with the provisions of the Constitution, and Article 142 which stipulates that judges are subject to the Constitution and the law.”

The party contends that the court’s order disregarded article 111(a) of the constitution, which states that “a run-off election must be held within twenty one days after the first election.”

In his speech at the Raalhugadu protest site last night, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid asserted that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to override “any article of the constitution or even a letter of that article.”

Constitutional provisions could only be suspended by the president after declaring a state of emergency, Shahid explained, which has to first be approved by parliament.

Suspension of lawyers

In June 2012, lawyers held a crisis meeting following the publication by the Supreme Court of controversial regulations requiring all practicing lawyers to be registered at a court.

The regulations also authorised the courts to suspend lawyers for publicly criticising the judiciary or court decisions.

In February 2013, the Supreme Court suspended lawyer Abdulla Haseen after he criticised the judiciary on the MDP-aligned Raajje TV. Haseen was barred from advocating in any court in the country while the Supreme Court asked police to investigate him for contempt of court.

The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) however decided not to prosecute Haseen after police concluded its investigation.

Moreover, earlier this month, MDP MP Imthiyaz Fahmy was charged with contempt of court for allegedly defaming Supreme Court Justices on a Raajje TV programme.

In her report on the Maldivian judiciary, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Lawyers and Judges, Gabriela Knaul, wrote that the “enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers with the courts is also unacceptable.”

“The regulation of disciplinary measures against lawyers falls outside of the prerogative of the judiciary or any other branch of power and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession. During her visit, the case of a lawyer who had been indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court for allegedly criticizing one of its judgements in public was reported to the Special Rapporteur. Such a suspension leaves no avenue for appeal and review and it represents a violation of the rights of the lawyer,” the report stated.