Some hundred graduates who have been waiting on a law licence for more than a year had their hopes dashed Wednesday when the Department of Judicial Administration cancelled an award ceremony at the last minute.
Faisal Adam, the DJA spokesman, said the ceremony was postponed to allow more graduates to apply for the licences.
Applications were opened in November last year, and extended because the department has received requests for more time, he claimed. A committee selected by the supreme court has now approved licences for 132 out of 160 applicants, he said.
“We first extended the deadline till July. The committee held a meeting on September 1, and the ceremony was set to be held on October 5. However, we received further calls asking to receive their licences and requests to change the date. The committee will meet again and go through more applications soon and set a date for the ceremony as soon as possible,” Faisal said.
The ceremony was cancelled after the DJA had sent out invitations, local media report.
A former law student told the Maldives Independent that he has been waiting to be licensed since May.
The attorney general’s office had licensed some 103 lawyers in June 2015, but the lawyers have not been allowed to appear at court because they needed a second permit from the supreme court, under regulations it enacted in July 2012.
In November last year, the court struck down the attorney general’s authority to grant licenses.
The court said it was taking over licensing powers in order to ensure lawyers comply with standards stipulated in the law, a move lawyers contend undermines their independence.
“It has been brought to our attention that challenges are being posed against constitutional provisions on judicial independence when another party is in-charge of granting licenses to lawyers practicing in Maldivian courts and their professional standards,” the court had said.
In November 2015, the court suspended the license of a lawyer representing former Vice President Ahmed Adeeb, and ordered a criminal inquiry, forcing him to flee the Maldives.
The court says it has “the full power and discretion” to take action over violations of the regulations “inside or outside of court.”
The former UN Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, in a 2013 report, said she was concerned over the absence of an independent self-regulating bar association to oversee the process of admitting candidates to the legal profession.
“The enforcement of compulsory registration of lawyers with the courts is also unacceptable. The regulation of disciplinary measures against lawyers falls outside of the prerogative of the judiciary or any other branch of power and contradicts the principle of independence of the legal profession,” she said.
When the supreme court takes action against lawyers, it leaves no avenue for appeal and review and is a violation of the rights of the lawyer, she added.
An independent bar association, however, “would not only provide a mechanism of protection for its members against undue interference in their legal work, but also monitor and report on their members’ conduct, ensuring their accountability and applying disciplinary measures in a fair and consistent manner,” she said.