Parliament accepts bill seeking to abolish Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court

Parliament today accepted amendments to the Judicature Act submitted by Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed to abolish the magistrate court in Hulhumale’.

The legislation (Dhivehi) was narrowly accepted for consideration with 32 votes in favour, 31 against as well as one abstention and sent to the Independent Institutions Committee for review.

The Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South proposed the amendments in December 2012, following a controversial 4-3 Supreme Court ruling declaring the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court legitimate.

The judgment cleared the way for the magistrate court to proceed with the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed on charges of illegally detaining Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.

Nasheed’s formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) disputes the legitimacy of the magistrate court, contending that it was created by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in violation of the Judicature Act.

Writing in his personal blog after submitting the amendments, MP Nasheed explained that he would have accepted the apex court’s decision as final and incontrovertible if Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla – chair of the JSC – had recused himself.

“The [Hulhumale’] court was formed by the commission. The vote on forming the court was called at a meeting of the commission chaired by [Justice Adam Mohamed]. The case requesting the Supreme Court to declare the court legitimate was submitted by the commission chaired by the justice,” Nasheed wrote.

Justice Adam Mohamed “created the court, filed the case, and decided the case in his favour,” Nasheed wrote.

Echoing the criticism, former Attorney General Husnu Suood, who argued the case at the Supreme Court, described the decision at the time as “a case of actual bias because JSC would [have] lost the case without the vote of JSC president: 3 for 3 against, [tie-breaking] vote by JSC [president].”

Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain, Justice Abdulla Areef and Justice Muthasim Adnan had delivered the dissenting opinion ruling that the magistrate court was not established in accordance with the Judicature Act.

MP Nasheed’s amendments would meanwhile see the magistrate court abolished and its cases transferred to the superior courts (Criminal Court, Civil Court, Family Court, Juvenile Court and Drug Court) in Male’.

Moreover, an article would be added to the Judicature Act explicitly stating that the islands of Hulhumale’ and Vilimale’ should be considered part of Male’ City.

Vili-Maafanu and Hulhu-Henveiru are both electoral districts or constituencies in the capital with elected MPs and city councillors.


In a blogpost in October 2012, Nasheed observed that the Judicature Act stipulates that magistrate courts should be set up in inhabited islands aside from Male’ without a division of the trial courts (Criminal Court, Civil Court, Family Court, Drug Court and Juvenile Court).

According to appendix two of the constitution, Hulhumale’ is a district or ward of Male’ and not a separate inhabited island.

The former magistrate court at Hulhumale’ – controversially set up by the JSC before the enactment of the Judicature Act in October 2010 – should therefore have been dissolved when the Judicature Act was ratified, Nasheed contended.

In the latter blogpost on amending the law governing courts, Nasheed explained that the purpose of amending the Judicature Act was to “clarify the Majlis’ intent as the [Supreme Court] has made a decision that conflicts with the intent of the Majlis in passing the law.”

If a Supreme Court interpretation of an article or provision in an act of parliament was “not the outcome intended by lawmakers,” Nasheed suggested that the remedy was amending the law to ensure the desired effect.

If the amendments are passed and signed into law, Nasheed wrote, a magistrate court could not be set up in the capital Male’ on the pretext of “two or three articles in the Judicature Act”.

Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court

During the first hearing of former President Nasheed’s trial at the magistrate court, the ex-president’s lawyers raised procedural points challenging the legitimacy of the court, which were summarily dismissed by the three magistrates on the bench.

Nasheed’s legal team then appealed the magistrate court’s ruling on the procedural points at the High Court.

On November 4, 2012, the High Court granted a stay or an injunction temporarily suspending the trial pending a ruling on procedural points.

The injunction prompted the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to announce that it had suspended all ongoing cases as they could be affected by the questions raised over the court’s legal status.

However, before the High Court could issue a ruling on the appeal, the JSC filed a case in Supreme Court requesting a decision to declare the magistrate court legitimate.

On November 8, 2012, the Supreme Court instructed the High Court to halt its hearings on the former President’s appeal.

The Supreme Court also ordered the Civil Court to send over all files and documents on a case submitted over a year ago by lawyer Ismail Visham, which challenged the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

The Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus ordering the lower court to suspend its hearings and took over the case.

Meanwhile, a week before the Supreme Court delivered its 4-3 judgment declaring the magistrate court legitimate, parliament’s Independent Institutions Committee voted not to recognise the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ court.

The oversight committee, chaired by MP Nasheed, decided that there were no “legal and constitutional grounds” to support the court’s legal status.

However, in an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court issued an order (No. 2012/SC-SJ/05) invalidating the committee’s decision.

The Supreme Court declared that no institution should meddle with the business of the courts, claiming that it held parental authority over “constitutional and legal affairs” and would not allow such “interference” to take place.

“Any action or a decision taken by an institution of the state that may impact the outcome of a matter that is being heard in a court of law, and prior to a decision by the courts on that matter, shall be deemed invalid, and [the Supreme Court] hereby orders that these acts must not be carried out,” the order read.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the High Court granted a second injunction or stay halting former President Nasheed’s trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

The trial was suspended pending a ruling by the High Court on the legitimacy of the three-magistrate bench appointed by the JSC to preside over Nasheed’s trial.

The injunction followed testimony by members of the JSC to the Independent Institutions Committee claiming that the three magistrates chosen by JSC were appointed arbitrarily.


Parliament tables no-confidence motion against Defence Minister in defiance of Supreme Court injunction

Parliament announced today that a no-confidence motion filed against Defence Minister Colonel (Retired) Mohamed Nazim has been tabled despite a Supreme Court injunction ordering parliament to halt pending no-confidence votes.

The People’s Majlis secretariat revealed that Defence Minister Nazim has been given the required 14-day notice and his ministry also duly informed by Speaker Abdulla Shahid.

Article 101(a) of the constitution states, “At least fourteen days notice of the debate in the People’s Majlis concerning a motion under article (a) shall be given to the concerned member of the cabinet, and he shall have the right to defend himself in the sittings of the People’s Majlis, both orally and in writing.”

The move comes in apparent defiance of an injunction or stay order issued by the Supreme Court to halt conducting no-confidence votes through secret ballot, pending a ruling by the apex court on the constitutionality of the secret vote.

Speaker Abdulla Shahid and Parliament’s Counsellor General Fathimath Filza were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

The injunction (Dhivehi) was issued in a case filed by Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) council member and lawyer of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim ‘Wadde’.

Waheed contended that secret votes were unlawful as article 85 of the constitution states that the People’s Majlis or any of its committees “may decide to exclude the public and the press from all or any part of the proceedings if there is a compelling need to do so in the interests of public order or national security.”

Waheed requested the Supreme Court specify the constitutional measure to determine a two-third majority of parliament – required to impeach the president – and to declare that the Majlis decision to approve a secret ballot was unconstitutional.

On December 3, parliament voted 41-34 to approve amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure to conduct no-confidence votes to impeach the President and remove cabinet members through secret ballot.

MPs of the government-aligned Jumhooree Party (JP) and Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) joined the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to vote the amendment through.

The no-confidence motion against Defence Minister Nazim was submitted by the MDP earlier this month on the grounds that he misused his authority as acting Transport Minister by using the military to influence termination of commercial contracts.

The MDP has also submitted a no-confidence motion to impeach President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik.

The no-confidence motion against Nazim was filed with the signatures of 17 MPs, according to the Majlis secretariat.

Under article 101(a), “A motion expressing want of confidence in a member of the Cabinet may be moved in the People’s Majlis, under the hand of at least ten members, specifying the reasons.”

“Challenging separation of powers”

In a separate ruling, the Supreme Court also issued an injunction ordering parliament not to appoint a new member to the Civil Service Commission (CSC) pending a ruling on the legality of parliament’s dismissal of the CSC’s former chair, Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

Fahmy had filed a case contesting the legality of his removal from the independent institution on November 20 on the grounds that he had allegedly sexual harassed a female employee.

“What is at stake is the supremacy of the parliament as the representative of the people. By its actions, the Supreme Court is challenging the separation of powers that underpins the constitutional basis of governance,” MDP MP Eva Abdulla told Minivan News yesterday.

In its stay orders, the Supreme Court referred to article 144(b) of the constitution, which states: “When deciding a constitutional matter within its jurisdiction, a court may in connection with a declaration pursuant to the article make any order that is just and equitable, including an […] suspending the declaration of invalidity (of a statute, regulation or action due to inconsistency with the Constitution) for any period and on any conditions, to allow the competent authority to correct the defect.”

Kutti NasheedMeanwhile, Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed, contended in his blog yesterday (December 12) that the Supreme Court did not have the legal or constitutional authority to issue the injunctive orders against parliament.

Moreover, the Supreme Court “does not have the power to even accept those cases,” he wrote.

Article 88(b) of the constitution states: “Unless otherwise specified in this constitution, the validity of any proceedings in the People’s Majlis shall not be questioned in any court of law.”

Nasheed argued that decisions made by parliament could not be challenged in court except in instances clearly specified in the constitution.

The purpose of article 88 was to prevent parliament’s decisions being challenged or overturned, Nasheed said, as in the absence of such a clause the Supreme Court would become a “People’s Appeal Majlis” with supremacy over the house of elected representatives.

“If every decision of the People’s Majlis is appealed at the Supreme Court in the manner that any judgement by the High Court can be appealed at the Supreme Court, then there is no difference between the People’s Majlis and the High Court,” Nasheed wrote.

This was against the separation of powers envisioned in the constitution, Nasheed said, which vested legislative powers in parliament and clearly specified instances where its decisions could be challenged at court.


Parliament accepts police bill

Parliament on Wednesday accepted legislation proposed by Independent MP for Kulhudhufushi South, Mohamed Nasheed, to revamp the existing Police Act.

MPs voted 24-19 with one abstention to accept the bill and sent it to the National Security Committee for further review.

Presenting the bill to parliament on October 31, Nasheed said the new law was intended to “bring fundamental, revolutionary change” to the police institution.