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Parliament approves increasing size of Supreme Court bench

The number of justices will increase from five to seven.



Parliament on Wednesday passed government-sponsored legislation to increase the size of the Supreme Court bench from five to seven justices.

After a review by the judiciary committee, the bill was passed with 74 votes in favour from the 87-member house. It was submitted on behalf of the government by MP Ali Azim, parliamentary group leader of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party, which controls a two-third majority of the People’s Majlis.

Once ratified, the revisions to the Judicature Act would reverse controversial changes approved in December 2014 that reduced the previous seven-member bench to five, which was followed by the dismissal of former chief justice Ahmed Faiz and justice Muthasim Adnan.

During the final debate on the amendments to the law at Wednesday’s sitting, some lawmakers expressed concern over the annual additional cost of MVR7.9 million (US$512,300) estimated by the finance ministry due to increasing the apex court bench.

The legal changes comes amid a push for reform with the judicial watchdog probing complaints against Supreme Court justices.

Last week, a subcommittee of the Judicial Service Commission that was investigating Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Didi decided to recommend his dismissal to parliament. The JSC has also reportedly taken statements of three other justices for a separate probe.