JSC lawyer election scheduled for October 30

An election for a lawyer to represent the legal community on the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) watchdog body has been scheduled for October 30, the Attorney General’s (AG) Office announced on Thursday (October 2).

Interested candidates were invited to submit applications before October 16.

In mid-August, the AG Office postponed the election for a second time after the Supreme Court struck down section 11(a) of the regulations enacted for conducting the polls, which states that polling mechanisms would be established on inhabited islands with at least five registered voters.

The apex court had declared that all licensed lawyers eligible to vote in the elections – including magistrates of island courts – should be able to do so anywhere in the country without registering.

The order prompted the AG Office to repeal the procedural regulations as the “essence” of the annulled clause was assuring “secrecy of the ballot”.

The AG Office said last week that new regulations (Dhivehi) have since been formulated in line with the Supreme Court order (Dhivehi). Lawyers and magistrates in other islands would be able to vote via fax from a polling station arranged by the AG Office.

Once the faxed ballot paper with the name, signature and fingerprint of the voter is received by the AG Office, an election official at the office would omit the section with the name and cast the ballot into a ballot box in Malé.

The election was first delayed in July after Gaaf Dhaal Fiyori Magistrate Abdul Razzak Mohamed filed a case at the Civil Court seeking annulment of section 11(a) of the procedural regulations.

After issuing a stay order postponing the election pending a judgment, the Civil Court ruled in late July that annulling the requirement would violate the secrecy of the ballot.

Judge Ali Rasheed Hussain noted that allowing voting mechanisms on islands where only one lawyer casts a ballot would compromise secrecy.

Along with former Deputy Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem, the three other candidates that have been stood for the election were Anas Abdul Sattar, Mohamed Faisal, and Latheefa Qasim.

After withdrawing his candidacy, lawyer Mohamed Fareed objected to judicial interference in the election following an earlier Supreme Court’s ruling allowing all licensed lawyers, including sitting MPs and judges, to vote in the election.

“The belief that an election in the Maldives may proceed without Supreme Court interference is against the facts, reality. This is the reality now,” he said at a press conference.

Had voting mechanisms been set up on every island, magistrates would have been forced to vote for the judiciary-backed candidate Latheefa Qasim, he suggested.