The High Court on Wednesday ruled in favour of residents of Kulhudhuffushi who were ordered to vacate their homes for the construction of an airstrip.
The appellate court’s newly-opened northern branch ordered the magistrate court to review compensation claims made by residents of two houses that were to be torn down for the airport.
In September, the government’s Regional Airports department gave residents living in 18 houses near the airstrip a five-day deadline to move out.
They were offered new plots of land, compensation for their homes and rent for an eight-month period. But the process was rushed as the outgoing administration scrambled to finish the airstrip before the September 23 presidential election.
The state has the authority to take over the land since it is to be used for “public good” and the compensation offered was fair, the Kulhudhuffushi magistrate court ruled in August.
The court ignored pleas by two of the residents who argued the compensation offered was not adequate. They appealed the court’s decision.
The claims were made by Ali Ismail from the Daisy Villa house and Moosa Hassan from Kulavaru.
When President Abdulla Yameen’s running mate visited the island in September, Ali Ismail approached him and asked about the eviction notice. Videos of the exchange went viral after Shaheem’s supporters threatened to kick Ismail out of his home.
Ismail’s son Mohamed Ali told the Maldives Independent they have not moved out. The other houses have now been vacated, the director of Regional Airports told the media in September.
The High Court said it was not clear on what basis the magistrate court had declared the compensation was fair.
The common practice was for a court to appoint a cost committee to determine compensation, the High Court noted in its ruling.
The magistrate court was ordered to review the case in light of the ruling.
The Maldives constitution says that private property is “inviolable” and can only be seized by the state for the use of public good, with the authority of a court order and after paying adequate compensation.
The High Court’s new regional branch began hearings last Monday. Islanders from the northern atolls were previously forced to travel to the capital to appeal decisions by island magistrate courts.