JSC taking applications for six Judgeships

The Judicial Service Commission has opened applications for the vacant positions on the benches of the High Court, Civil Court, and Criminal Court.

In an announcement made today, the commission stated that applications will be open from today till 3pm on February 10, 2015, for one High Court judge, four Civil Court judges, and one Criminal Court judge. The application forms will be available on www.jsc.gov.mv.

High Court Judge Yoosuf Hussain retired from the bench today, reportedly due to poor health, while Civil Court judge Aishath Shujoon – one of the first female judges in the Maldives, resigned in late December of last year.


Civil court rules against Yacht Tours over West Park dispute

The Civil Court has issued a sentence stating that the Malé City Council is not liable to pay damages to Yacht Tours Pvt Ltd after the company filed a case accusing the council of breaching the terms of the West Park Cafeteria lease.

The sentence issued today (January 13) said that “as it was not proved to the court that the city council had breached the agreement between the council and Yacht Tours, the court does not find the council liable of any damages to Yacht Tours.”

Yacht Tours – owned by former Kaashidhoo MP Abdulla Jabir – filed the case after the city council leased out West Park to former professional tennis player Amir Mansoor in September 2012.

Jabir accused the council of breaching a contract made in 2005, when the city council was known as the Malé Municipality.

The company had accused the council of breaching Article 11 of the contact which stated that the company should be granted the opportunity to extend the contract before it expires, while requesting the court to issue a temporary order prohibiting it from handing West Park to another party.

However, the court sentence today stated that the company was unable to prove it had formally requested an extension to the contract six months prior to the termination as required under Article 11 of the contract.

The Civil Court had previously thrown out the case after the then Yacht Tours Lawyer Mohamed Anil refused to accept a chit handed to him by the court, in which the council accused the company of trying to drag out court proceedings in order to garner profit from the café.

Speaking at the court the second time the case the was filed, former Attorney General Diyana Saeed – also Jabir’s wife – represented Yacht Tours, saying that Anil had refused to accept the chit without consulting the company.


Former President Maumoon “saddened” over Judge Shujoon’s resignation

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives leader Maumoon Abdul Gayoom has expressed sadness over the resignation of Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon.

A tweet posted yesterday by the former president read that he was “saddened by the resignation of Judged Aishath Shujoon one of the first two women judges I had pleasure of appointing in 2007”.

Haveeru reported Shujoon gave her letter of resignation to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) on Monday (December 29).

Shujoon, a founding member of Maldivian Democracy Network, was recently re-elected to UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.

Earlier this month, the seven member Civil Court bench condemned the removal of two Supreme Court Judges, including the chief justice, saying the JSC was “forced” to deem the two judges unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

A subsequent case challenging the decision was removed from the Civil Court’s jurisdiction by the Supreme Court.

In February, JSC launched an investigation into Shujoon after she announced on state television that she was once offered a US$5 million bribe, which she refused.


Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon resigns

Civil Court Judge Aisha Shujoon has given her letter of resignation to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), reports Haveeru.

Shujoon, a founding member of Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), was recently re-elected to UN subcommittee on the prevention of torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment.

Earlier this month, the seven member Civil Court bench condemned the removal of two Supreme Court Judges, including the chief justice, saying the JSC was “forced” to deem the two judges unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

A subsequent case challenging the decision was removed from the Civil Court’s jurisdiction by the Supreme Court.

In February, JSC launched an investigation into Shujoon after she announced on state television that she was once offered a US$5 million bribe, which she refused.

Source: Haveeru; Sun Online


MDP asks Civil Court to halt Majlis decision on judges’ removal

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has requested a stay order to stop the Majlis vote this afternoon to remove two of the country’s seven Supreme Court judges.

The opposition has asked the Civil Court to halt the 1:30pm vote and examine the process by which the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) recommended the dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Musthasim Adnan.

The Civil Court yesterday issued a resolution condemning the move, stating that the People’s Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the bench through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

Amendments to the act were passed in the Majlis last week calling for the reduction of the Supreme Court bench. The JSC – given three days to decide upon the judges to be removed – opted for Faiz and Adnan within 24 hours.

Former JSC member and whistleblower Aishath Velezinee has said: “The fact that JSC has taken a decision – and that within hours of ratification – shows this is a pre-decided conclusion, a political decision and is not based on any legitimate reasoning.”

“The constitutional duty of JSC is to protect independence of judges and, in my opinion, the JSC should have challenged the unconstitutional amendment. The JSC could have petitioned the High Court to decide on the constitutionality of the amendment.”

Private lawyers have today taken up the case in the High Court, with Hasaan Maaz Shareef, Mohamed Faisal, and Shaheen Hameed also asking for the vote to be halted and for the annulment of what they consider to be unconstitutional changes to the Judicature Act.

Meanwhile, former Attorney General Husnu Suood has also said the amendment is illegal.

“The most important aspect of judicial independence is security of tenure. The amendments brought to the Judicature Act eliminate this attribute. There will be no judicial independence if the Supreme Court judges are at the mercy of the People’s Majlis and the executive.”

“If the Majlis and the president can change the bench as they see fit, this fundamental basis is lost. There will never be judicial independence in the Maldives.”

Security of tenure was introduced in the 2008 Constitution in order to create an independent judiciary, although further requirements to improve the ethical and educational standards of judges were bypassed after the failure of the JSC to implement Article 285.

MDP MP and Majlis Deputy Speaker ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik last week described the formation of the current Supreme Court bench as a “shameful” political bargain between the MDP and then–opposition parties in 2010.

Civil Society groups have also released statements today expressing alarm at developments, pointing out that the decision will undermine the independence of the judiciary, as well as compromising the judges’ right to defend themselves.

The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN) has described the proposed removal of the judges as being in contravention of constitutional procedures – “a travesty in the guise of upholding the Constitution”.

“The aforementioned decision has been made contrary to the standard of incompetence for judges issued by the JSC itself. A procedurally irregular decision, such as this, cannot be considered legally binding,” stated the NGO.

MDN also questioned additional amendments to establish High Court branches in the north and south of the country, suggesting that the manner in which the authority to transfer High Court judges had been moved from the JSC to the Supreme Court “gives room to suggest that such changes are politically motivated”.

Meanwhile, Transparency Maldives (TM) – in a statement expressing alarm persistent infringement of the constitution – has questioned the sincerity of what pro-government MPs have described as a move toward judicial reform.

“Any move to reform the judiciary must be sincere and look at the entire judicial system, especially the judicial watchdog body, JSC, so that meaningful and real reform may take place,” said the anti-corruption NGO.

Related to this story

Parliament reduces Supreme Court bench to five judges

JSC recommends dismissal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan

Civil Court condemns move to dismiss Chief Justice Faiz and Justice Adnan


Civil Court condemns move to dismiss Chief Justice Faiz and Justice Adnan

The seven-member Civil Court and several prominent lawyers have condemned the judicial watchdog Judicial Service’s Commission’s (JSC) recommendation to remove Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Justice Muthasim Adnan from the Supreme Court bench.

In a resolution passed last night, the Civil Court said the People’s Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the Supreme Court bench without due process, through an “unconstitutional” amendment to the Judicature Act.

The amendment, passed on Wednesday and ratified on Thursday, reduced the seven-member Supreme Court bench to five judges.

It also mandated the JSC to deem two judges guilty of gross misconduct and gross incompetence and recommend their dismissal within three days.

The People’s Majlis is currently holding an extraordinary sitting to vote on the recommendation.

The Civil Court Chief Judge Ali Rasheed Hussein, and Judges Aisha Shujoon, Jameel Moosa, Hathif Hilmy, Mariyam Nihayath, Huseein Mazeed, and Farhad Rasheed said the move was against principles of natural justice and several international conventions, and could “destroy judicial independence” in the Maldives.

“We believe we are obliged to comment on the issue for the sake of the democratic and judicial history of the Maldives, and we believe keeping silent at this juncture amounts to negligence” the bench said.

The People’s Majlis had failed to provide the JSC with any instructions on recommending judges for dismissal, the Civil Court claimed.

The Civil Court noted the United States of America in 1886 had voted to reduce their ten-member Supreme Court to seven, by deciding the state would not appoint new members to the bench when a judge’s seat became vacant.

Meanwhile, President Abdulla Yameen’s nephews, lawyers Shaheen Hameed and Maumoon Hameed, have spoken out against the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives’ (PPM) attempt to dismiss the two judges.

Shaheen told CNM that the JSC had failed to provide Faiz and Muthasim to defend themselves against charges of misconduct and negligence.

“[The JSC] have said it is alright to dismiss these first two judges by flouting all procedures, but that due process must be followed in dismissing other judges. This is gross violation of equality before the law,” he said.

The ruling party’s “unacceptable” attempt to dismiss Faiz and Justice is the epitome of injustice, and appears to demonstrate that the Supreme Court “is a coat tailored for a specific individual,” Maumoon has said on his Facebook status.

The JSC’s sudden ruling, without an investigation and without any evidence within hours of the amendment’s ratification shows it was a pre-decided conclusion, Maumoon contended.

He also questioned why the JSC had found Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed, implicated in a series of sex tapes with three foreign women, fit for the bench.

Lawyer and Jumhooree Party MP Ali Hussein in an interview with Haveeru called the attempt at dismissals an “atrocity.” Criminals are guaranteed a fair trial, but the two judges’ right to speak in their defense had been violated, he said.

“The two were appointed because they are capable. If there has been no changes, it is an issue if they are judged incapable because of an amendment to the law. This means those who hold a majority in the JSC can get rid of judges they do not like, not because they are incapable,” he said.

MPs have not yet been given details of the JSC ruling. Speaking to Minivan News on Thursday, JSC Secretary General Abu Bakr said the commission had decided to keep proceedings confidential until a Majlis vote.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has said it will vote against the amendment. The Jumhooree Party (JP) has not yet taken an official stand while Adhaalath Party Anara Naeem said she will wait on details of the JSC verdict before she takes a stand.


Government ordered to pay MVR349 million in damages for terminated transport contract

The Civil Court has ordered the Maldives government to pay MVR348,995,154.60 (US$22.5million) to Dheebaja Investment Pvt Ltd for the abrupt and unlawful termination of a contract to establish ferry services in four northern atolls.

The verdict, dated October 23, said President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s administration had terminated a contract with Dheebaja on 30 May 2013 claiming the company had failed to fulfill terms by suspending ferry services to Baa Atoll Fulhadhoo and Fehendhoo Islands.

The transport services contract had been signed under former President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2010. Dheebaja was to provide ferry services in Noonu, Raa, Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls in exchange for 47 plots of land to build ferry terminals and tourism development.

The Civil Court found that the Waheed administration’s termination of the contract was unlawful, stating the government had violated the contract first by failing to hand over promised plots of land to Dheebaja.

The court ordered the Maldives government to pay nearly MVR349 million in damages to Dheebaja for it’s unilateral decision to terminate contract with only five days of notice. The amount is to be paid back within six months.

The Maldives is also currently facing a potentially crippling payout to India’s GMR infrastructure for the abrupt and unlawful termination of a contract to develop Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

President Waheed had declared the US$511 million contract “void ab initio” (invalid from the outset) in November 2012 and gave GMR a seven-day ultimatum to leave the country.

However, a Singaporean arbitration court in June declared the agreement to be “valid and binding” and said the government and Maldives Airports Company Pvt Ltd (MACL) are liable to GMR for damages.

The arbitration tribunal is in the process of determining a compensation figure. Although GMR had initially sought US$1.4 billion – a figure that exceeds the Maldives’ annual budget – government sources say the figure will be between US$300million and US$600million.

The World Bank in 2013 said the payout would place severe pressure on the country’s already critically low foreign reserves.

Since President Nasheed’s controversial ouster in 2012, President Waheed and incumbent President Abdulla Yameen’s administration have terminated or renegotiated several contracts signed under Nasheed.

The government, on October 22, terminated an agreement made with India based Tatva Global Renewable Energy to provide waste management services in Malé and renegotiated a housing contract with India’s TATA group.

The US$190 million housing project had been delayed for more than two years.

Indian companies blamed the government of creating “undue challenges” for political gain to derail their substantial investments in the Maldives in a 2012 report in India’s Business Standard.

Nasheed’s government had been ousted after months of a vitriolic nationalist and anti–India campaign.

Several of Yameen’s ministers also served in Waheed’s cabinet. They include Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, Defense Minister Mohamed Nazim, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad, Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu, and Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed.

Incumbent Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon served as Waheed’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs while Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed held the position of Home Minister.

Since assuming power, Yameen has strengthened trade and political ties with China and the Maldives is now a partner in China’s flagship Silk Route.


Civil Court rules customs has authority to confiscate imported goods

The Civil Court has ruled that the Maldives Customs Service (MCS) has the legal authority to confiscate goods imported by companies or individuals with outstanding tax payments to the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA).

In a judgment delivered on Thursday (September 11), the court ruled against a claimant, Fuad Zahir from Mariyammage in Gaaf Alif Kolamaafushi, who contested the custom’s seizure of a shipment imported under his name.

The customs had confiscated the shipment due to unpaid taxes.

The MCS was authorised to take the action under import and export laws as well as the Customs Act, the judge noted, and rejected the claim for compensation of losses incurred due to the confiscation of goods.


Civil Court orders Elections Commission to release funds to IDP

The Civil Court has ordered the Elections Commission (EC) to issue funds from the state budget to the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP).

In a verdict delivered on Sunday (August 31), the Civil Court ordered the EC to hand over funds owed to the party from 2011 to 2013.

Judge Mariyam Nihayath ruled that the EC did not have the legal authority to withhold the money by setting conditions or criteria that were not specified in laws or regulations.

The EC had said at the trial that the funds were not released to the IDP as it had failed to pay fines and was not active as a political party.

In July, the EC reinstated eight small parties – including the IDP – dissolved for not having a minimum of 3,000 registered members.

Following the controversial dismissal of former EC Chair Fuwad Thowfeek and Deputy Chair Ahmed Fayaz for contempt of court, the EC sought the Supreme Court’s advice concerning a ruling that abolished a requirement in the Political Parties Act for a minimum of 10,000 members.

The apex court advised the EC to reinstate the dissolved parties, which are entitled to financial assistance from the state from funds allocated in the annual budget.