‘A dark day’: lawyers and legal experts react to supreme court judgment

‘A dark day’: lawyers and legal experts react to supreme court judgment
May 24 17:42 2017

The supreme court’s judgment declaring itself the final authority on the validity of no-confidence and impeachment votes has drawn widespread criticism from lawyers, lawmakers and legal experts.

The apex court controversially decided Monday that the parliament’s removal of the president, vice president, ministers, judges and officials of independent bodies will only stand after the court rules on the legitimacy of the no-confidence vote or the impeachment process.

The judgment was delivered after the Attorney General’s office asked the court to establish that the parliament can only dismiss cabinet ministers for committing an impeachable offence.

The AG office sought an interpretation of article 101 of the constitution, which states that a minister will cease to hold office if a majority of the People’s Majlis votes in favour of a no-confidence motion filed by at least ten lawmakers, “specifying the reasons.”

The case was filed amidst renewed political turmoil with a new alliance formed between opposition parties and former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom seeking to seize the parliament’s majority with defections from the divided ruling party.

“Today is once again a dark day for the constitution,” former Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz Hussain wrote on his Facebook page Monday night.

Speaking to Maldives Independent, Faiz said he personally finds many legal issues concerning the judgment.

“First of all, it is questionable whether the Attorney General can go to court over something like this. From the media reports I understand that the Attorney General wanted to add to the constitution,” he said.

“I believe he can only go to court in few circumstances including cases where the public’s or state’s interest needs to be protected and where there is a dispute over an article in the constitution or law.”

Faiz also questioned the legality of the specific instructions in the judgment for the parliament and other state institutions.

“I believe that this judgment should have been a deliberate judgement. Meaning that it should not be binding and the parliament and other institutions should have the power to act on it or leave it,” he said.

“However the persons who wrote the judgment have thought about this and imposed direct orders on specific institutions to make it appear otherwise.”

He also suggested that only an act of parliament can remedy the situation.

“When the supreme court delivers a judgement it is a must to obey and act on it. The only viable solution I see to this is for the parliament to pass a law regarding no-confidence motions,” he said.

Hussain Shameem, a legal expert and former deputy prosecutor general, meanwhile accused the supreme court of “encroaching on the parliament’s powers”.

“If the parliament does not respond in a similar or more powerful way we will soon see the apex court take the people’s power one by one. The judiciary has to be held accountable,” he said.

Fathmath Dhiyana Saeed, a former attorney general, said in a tweet that the court has “destroyed the legal order of our nation.”

Ibrahim Riffath, a former solicitor general, called the judgment “a travesty of justice.” The supreme court was “clearly making a mockery of the principle of separation of powers,” he tweeted.

Mariya Ahmed Didi, a former state attorney and lawmaker of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, suggested that “the people’s rule has ended” with the apex court’s judgment.

“All the powers of this nation have been taken into the hands of five people who were appointed without the direct say of the people,” she tweeted

Hassan Latheef, a prominent lawyer and the MDP’s chairman, contended that the constitution does not authorise the court to override the decisions of the people’s elected representatives.

“The final mark of the dictatorship is sealed shamelessly. It is time that all MPs should say enough is enough,” tweeted MP Ali Hussain of the opposition Jumhooree Party.

Hisaan Hussain, a prominent lawyer who has represented opposition leaders in high-profile trials, meanwhile quoted a US legal precedent: “No court of justice can be authorised to construe any clause of the constitution as to defeat its obvious ends.”

In the immediate aftermath of the judgment, several opposition lawmakers referred to article 87(b) of the constitution, which 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.”