Supreme Court instructs High Court to suspend hearings on former President Nasheed’s appeal

The Supreme Court has instructed the High Court to halt its hearings on an appeal lodged by former President Mohamed Nasheed, challenging a ruling by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on procedural points raised by the former President’s legal team.

The High Court on Sunday granted an injunction or stay suspending the former President’s trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, pending a ruling on the procedural points raised by Nasheed’s legal team, which included determining the legitimacy of the magistrate court.

Nasheed’s lawyers were informed by the High Court this morning that a hearing scheduled for 10:15am was cancelled because a judge was “on sick leave.”

An official from the High Court initially told Minivan News that the hearing was cancelled because the judge was on sick leave. However, asked which of the three judges on the panel had taken ill, the official said she would have to clarify.

The High Court official said later that the case had been suspended based on instructions from the Supreme Court. A letter from the Supreme Court was received in the late afternoon yesterday, she said.

“The judge took the sick leave [this morning] after the Supreme Court ordered the case to be halted. It wasn’t cancelled because he took ill,” she claimed.

Nasheed’s lawyers were at first unaware of the Supreme Court order.

Abdulla Shair from Nasheed’s legal team said that the High Court has since informed the lawyers of the Supreme Court’s instruction to halt the case.

However, it was unclear whether the Supreme Court’s order was a writ of prohibition or “just a letter telling the High Court to halt the case until the Supreme Court ruled on the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court,” he explained.

The High Court official said that the instructions were made in a letter from the apex court.

A media official from the Supreme Court was not responding at the time of press.

However, the official told local media today that the High Court was asked to halt hearings on the appeal because one of the procedural points involved the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ court, which the Supreme Court had been asked by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to determine.

The Supreme Court also informed the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court on Wednesday to resume proceedings on other ongoing cases, pending a ruling on the magistrate’s court legitimacy.

Following the High Court’s injunction, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court announced that it had suspended all ongoing cases in light of the questions raised over its legal status.

In an announcement a day after the High Court granted the injunction, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court said it has suspended proceedings on cases involving marriage, divorce, guardianship, family matters, property lawsuits, civil cases, criminal cases involving extension of detention periods as well as other matters that could be affected by the questions raised over its legal status.

The Supreme Court media official told newspaper Haveeru today that the decision by the highest court of appeal would not affect the High Court injunction suspending the former President’s trial.

Former President Nasheed is facing criminal charges over the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.

Speaking to press after the High Court hearing on Sunday, Nasheed’s lawyer Hisaan Hussain claimed that the state was unable to offer valid arguments to defend the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, which the former President’s legal team contends was formed in violation of the constitution and Judicature Act.

At Sunday’s hearing of Nasheed’s appeal, the JSC revealed that it had filed a case at the Supreme Court to determine the legitimacy of the court.

Local media reported on Monday that the Supreme Court ordered the Civil Court to send over all files and documents on a case submitted by a lawyer, Ismail Visham, over a year ago challenging the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

The Supreme Court had issued a writ of mandamus ordering the lower court to suspend its hearings and had taken over the case. The apex court had however not conducted any hearings on the case.

Meanwhile, writing in his personal blog last month, Independent MP Mohamed ‘Kutti’ Nasheed explained that a magistrate court could not legally be established at Hulhumale’.

The Judicature Act states 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 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.

At Sunday’s hearing of Nasheed’s appeal, the three-judge panel heard arguments on the procedural issues from both the claimant and the state, represented by the Prosecutor General’s Office and Attorney General’s Office.

Adjourning the hearing, Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariya had said that the judges would try to ensure that the next hearing would be the last before issuing a ruling.


High Court to decide on injunction for Nasheed trial

The High Court will decide on a request by former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team for an injunction halting his trial over the detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed at a hearing on November 4, the same day the trial at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court is set to resume.

Concluding today’s hearing of an appeal lodged by Nasheed’s legal team, challenging the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’s ruling on three procedural issues raised at the magistrate court’s first hearing on October 9, High Court Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariya said the three-judge panel would issue a ruling on the injunction at the next hearing on the morning of November 4.

Speaking to press after the hearing, Nasheed’s lead attorney Hisaan Hussain explained that a request was made for a temporary injunction to suspend the criminal trial pending a ruling by the High Court on the procedural points.

“Today we submitted in detail the reasons we are seeking a temporary injunction,” she said. “In response, the Prosecutor General’s Office said they did not have anything further to say about issuing the injunction and to proceed in the way the court decides. That is, they do not object to [the court] issuing the injunction.”

On the High Court scheduling its next hearing for November 4, Hisaan noted that the next hearing at the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court was scheduled for 4:00pm on the same day.

“We believe seeking an injunction is by its nature a matter of urgency,” she said. “So we have requested that the court expedite its decision on the injunction. We hope the court would make a decision before [November 4]. We will make such a request to the court in writing as well.”

At today’s hearing, Nasheed’s legal team raised the three procedural points dismissed by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court: a magistrate court holding a trial on a different island to where it was based; the constitutional legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court; and the legality of the arrest warrant issued by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, as such orders could only be issued by a court in the locality of the defendant’s permanent address.

At the October 9 hearing, the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court summarily dismissed the first two points and agreed to hear the last issue. The court however ruled that the warrant was issued legally as it was following a precedent established by the High Court.

Meanwhile, the High Court today allowed the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to enter into the appeal case as third parties on the issue of the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.

Lawyers from both institutions were present at today’s hearing. The state was represented by lawyers from the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO).

Requesting the injunction, Hisaan reportedly argued that failure to do so could cause irreparable injury to the rights of the defendant as the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court could conclude its trial and sentence the former President before the High Court ruled on the appeal.

While Deputy Solicitor General Ahmed Usham asked for an opportunity to respond to the request for an injunction, Judge Shuaib said that the three-judge panel had decided that the AGO attorney could not be allowed to argue regarding the injunction.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed also attended the hearing along with MPs, senior members and supporters of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Almost an hour before the beginning of the hearing, police assisted by officers of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) cordoned off the area surrounding the High Court at the former presidential palace.

“Unfair and unjust”

The MDP secretariat meanwhile issued a statement in the wake of the hearing expressing concern with the High Court’s scheduling of its next hearing for November 4.

“The party believes that the result of conducting both hearings on the same day will be the defence attorneys losing the opportunity to prepare for the original case at the ‘Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’,” the statement read.

The MDP statement contended that the defence attorneys could only prepare for the trial based on the decision on the procedural processes.

The party also noted that the High Court has in the past conducted hearings at night and on public holidays to issue temporary injunctions.

“However, while a week has passed since the appeal and request for an injunction on behalf of President Nasheed has been filed at the High Court when the hearing was held today, the party believes that the decision to issue a ruling on the injunction on the same day the original case is to be conducted at the ‘Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court’ is neither fair nor just,” the party said.