Supreme Court overrules Juvenile Court’s summoning of Speaker of Parliament

The Supreme Court on Thursday overruled a request by the Juvenile Court for Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid to attend the court and answer questions regarding medical insurance for judges.

The Supreme Court noted that making arrangements with the relevant authorities to provide health insurance for judges and their dependents was part of the mandate of the Department of Judicial Administration.

“A Juvenile Court Judge has ordered me to his court today to respond to his queries regarding his health insurance approved by Parliament,” Speaker Shahid tweeted on Thursday.

Two hours later, Shahid revealed that the Supreme Court had “issued a writ of mandamus quashing the Juvenile Court Judge’s order stating Juvenile Court has exceeded its mandate.”

Article 39(a) of the Judges Act (Dhivehi) of 2010 states that health care for judges, their spouses, parents and children under the age of 18 must be provided by the state either in the Maldives or overseas under a medical scheme.

Local media reported last week that health insurance for judges and their dependents had not been provided since the introduction of the universal health insurance programme Aasandha in January 2012.

“We did not summon him. We just requested his presence for a discussion. Health insurance had not been provided to the judges of only [the Juvenile Court]. We have just taken the initiative in this matter,” a Juvenile Court official was quoted as saying.

However, the parliament secretariat informed the Juvenile Court that it could not summon the Speaker.

The Supreme Court writ of mandamus (Dhivehi) meanwhile revealed that the court asked Shahid to attend at 1:00pm on Thursday (November 22).

The order or request was made after not receiving a reply from the Speaker to a letter sent on November 4 requesting health insurance for Juvenile Court judges.

The letter had demanded a reply within a specified period, according to the Supreme Court writ.

The apex court determined that the summons or request to answer its queries was made “outside the legal responsibilities of the Juvenile Court.”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed meanwhile condemned the Juvenile Court’s attempt to summon the Speaker.

“I see the courts trying to establish judicial dictatorship. It’s got to stop,” Nasheed tweeted.

The Juvenile Court incident came during a week when two MPs from Speaker Shahid’s government-aligned Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) were repeatedly summoned to court over longstanding unpaid debts to the Bank of Maldives.

DRP MP Ali Azim alleged political motivation behind the summons following a vote on Monday to conduct no-confidence motions through secret ballot.

Meanwhile, in March 2011, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) moved the current Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court, Mohamed Naeem, from the Civil Court to the Juvenile Court as a disciplinary action for disregarding decisions of superior courts.

Then-Civil Court Judge Naeem had refused to hear cases involving the Attorney General’s Office before parliament approved the reappointment of then-Attorney General Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad.

Naeem’s decision defied precedents set by both the Civil Court and High Court, which ruled that the AG could represent the state at court before receiving parliamentary consent.

However, a few days later the JSC appointed Naeem as the chief judge of the Juvenile Court.