The Supreme Court last night took control of a complaint lodged with the Civil Court regarding a judicial watchdog resolution recommending the removal of Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz and Supreme Court Judge Muthasim Adnan.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had filed the complaint with the Civil Court on Sunday morning, ahead of an extraordinary Majlis sitting to vote out Faiz and Adnan.
The first hearing was scheduled at 8:30pm, but the Supreme Court’s registrar Mariyam Sham’a Ismail sent a writ of prohibition at 8:40 pm ordering the Civil Court to halt proceedings on the case.
The writ ordered the Civil Court to “to hand over case files, with all relevant documents, to the Supreme Court before 20:45 tonight, 14 December 2014, and to immediately annul any action that may have been taken on the matter.”
MDP had requested the Civil Court to review the legality of the watchdog Judicial Services Commission’s (JSC) letter to the Majlis declaring the two judges guilty of misconduct and incompetence. The complaint also asked the court to issue an injunction against the Majlis vote.
However, a two-third majority of MPs voting removed the two judges before the Civil Court could examine the request for a stay order.
A lawyer who wished to remain anonymous questioned the legality of the writ of prohibition, claiming such an order could only be issued following a sitting of the Supreme Court bench led by the chief justice.
At the time of the writ’s issue, the position of chief justice was vacant. The Majlis only approved Supreme Court judge Abdulla Saeed to the position at an extraordinary vote at 9:30pm.
The apex court’s registrar cannot issue orders on the Civil Court in the absence of a chief justice, the lawyer claimed.
The Supreme Court also had a conflict of interest in the case as it asked for the review of a JSC ruling on the removal of two Supreme Court judges, the lawyer said. Further, Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed heads the JSC – the defendant in the case, leading to further conflict of interest, the lawyer said.
Faiz and Muthasim’s dismissal follow amendments to the Judicature Act reducing the seven-member Supreme Court bench to five judges. The revised law ordered the JSC to recommend two judges for dismissal within three days of its enactment.
The Civil Court had on Saturday night condemned the move and said the Majlis had “forced” the JSC to deem Faiz and Adnan unfit for the Supreme Court bench without due process.
The Civil Court Chief Judge Ali Rasheed Hussein, and Judges Aisha Shujoon, Jameel Moosa, Hathif Hilmy, Mariyam Nihayath, Huseein Mazeed, and Farhad Rasheed said the move was against principles of natural justice and several international conventions, and could “destroy judicial independence” in the Maldives.
“We believe we are obliged to comment on the issue for the sake of the democratic and judicial history of the Maldives, and we believe keeping silent at this juncture amounts to negligence” the bench said.
However, the ruling Progressive Party of the Maldves (PPM) maintains the bench reduction would facilitate judicial reform and strengthen the judiciary.
Faiz and Muthasim often formed the dissenting opinions in several controversial cases including the decision to annul the first round of elections held in September 2013. Muthasim was the only judge with a background in common law on the bench.
Faiz has since called his dismissal unconstitutional, and said the move raises doubts over the separation of powers and the continuation of judicial independence in the Maldives.
“Today will be written down as a black day in the constitutional history of the Maldives. I state this is a black day for the constitution. Taking such a vote against the constitution is, I believe, disrespectful to the constitution,” he said.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has also sent a letter to Speaker Abdulla Maseeh and Attorney General Mohamed Anil expressing concern over the sudden dismissal of Faiz and Muthasim
How the state acts in the case sets an important precedent in establishing public trust in the judiciary, the commission claimed.
President Yameen’s nephew Shaheen Hameed and two lawyers have also asked the High Court to annul the amendments to the Judicature Act.
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