Transparency Maldives voices concerns over Supreme Court integrity

Transparency Maldives has raised questions over the integrity of the Supreme Court after a recent scuffle within the seven-member judges bench over the appointment of parliament’s choice to replace former Chair of Civil Service Commission (CSC) Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

“Transparency Maldives calls upon the Supreme Court to maintain its actions in such a fashion that the court does not allow further diminishing of its integrity and to be transparent in its functioning and sharing of information to strengthen the public trust towards the institution,” read the statement.

The Supreme Court’s seven-member bench was split following the issuance of an injunction ordering the appointment of Dr Mohamed Latheef at the CSC. Chief Justice of Supreme Court Ahmed Faiz Hussain released a statement to media accusing his own court of issuing the injunction without the knowledge of himself and two other Supreme Court Justices (Ibrahim Areef and Muthasim Adnan).

The local NGO has released a statement claiming that the Supreme Court’s failure to make key documents public, such as the recent injunction, showed how much the apex court of the country disregarded the need for transparency in important matters.

Transparency in the functioning of an institution and respecting the right to information being a fundamental necessity in order to refrain from corruption and corrupt practices, said Transparency, pointing out that disregard for such necessities a negative impact on public confidence.

The Supreme Court, being the final authority to decide on all legal and constitutional matters of the state, was irresponsible to allow the public to question its integrity at a time when political polarization has taken its toll, said Transparency.

The NGO called on the court to release a copy of the injunction, and the statement made by the Chief Justice regarding the injunction, to public as it concerned the interests of the public.

Parliament and courts clash

The parliament and the Supreme Court came to loggerheads following Supreme Court’s decision to overrule the parliamentary deposition of then CSC Chair Fahmy.

In November last year parliament voted 38 – 32 to remove the CSC chair after the Independent Institutions Committee investigated a complaint of sexual harassment lodged by a female employee of the CSC.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying ”it won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

On 14 March 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that parliament’s decision to remove Fahmy from his position was not based on reasonable grounds and invalidated the decision.

Earlier this August, the parliament disregarded a prior Supreme Court’s ruling when appointing Fathimath Reenee Abdul Sattar to replace Fahmy at the commission.

However, just minutes before the former Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Defence was given the letter of appointment by President Mohamed Waheed Hassan to, the Supreme Court issued an injunction to halt the appointment contending that Fahmy had requested the Supreme Court to look into the matter.

According to local media reports, the court’s injunction stated that appointing a new member to the commission, when the court had already decided the dismissal had been in violation of the constitution, was itself unconstitutional.

Shortly after the Supreme Court Injunction, the chief justice then accused his own court of issuing an injunction without his knowledge.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General Azima Shukoor has reportedly advised President Waheed that he does not have any responsibility for determining members to the CSC.

Last week, Parliament appointed CSC member and former chair Dr Mohamed Latheef as the new chair of the commission. However, Fahmy has refused to step down and is still continuing to appear at the CSC meetings as the chair of the commission leading to further disputes.

Last Thursday, the new CSC Chair Dr Latheef sent a letter to the President asking him to find a solution to ongoing issues with Fahmy. Dr Latheef stated that Fahmy continued to come into work after his dismissal by the parliament, obstructing the running of the institution.

Latheef told the president that this issue affected both the civil servants themselves and the services being provided to the public. President Waheed responded last Friday stating that he would make a decision within the next three days regarding the issue.

“I have to seek the legal advice on the matter. This matter has become very complicated now,” President Waheed told local newspaper Haveeru on Friday.