President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday sought the advice of the judicial watchdog to nominate Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali Zahir to the Supreme Court.
A vacancy opened on the bench after parliament dismissed former justice Abdulla Didi last week.
Mahaz was among the first judges to be appointed to the newly-formed drug court in February 2012. Born on the island of Madaveli in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll, he previously worked at the Attorney General’s office as an assistant state attorney and at the Prosecutor General’s office as an assistant public prosecutor.
Mahaz has also published four books and written numerous articles for the Maldives Law Review. In October 2015, the judicial watchdog reprimanded him over a blogpost that was deemed to have been critical of a Supreme Court ruling. But the judge vowed to continue writing academic articles on contentious legal issues.
Mahaz is also the secretary general of the Judges Association of Maldives.
The president has the constitutional authority to appoint Supreme Court justices “after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and confirmation of the appointees by a majority of the members of the People’s Majlis present and voting.”
A period offered to submit applications for the vacant post on the apex court bench expired on Thursday.
According to the JSC, the six individuals who applied included former attorney general Dhiyana Saeed and former deputy prosecutor general Mariyam Nihayath as well as High Court judges Ali Sameer, Mohamed Niyaz, Shuaib Hussain Zakariyya and Hassan Ali.
The JSC, 10-member oversight body for the judiciary, will interview the candidates as well as Mahaz and make a recommendation for the president to nominate to parliament.
On Wednesday, the president appointed former judges Dr Azmiralda Zahir and Aisha Shujune Mohamed to the Supreme Court after parliament confirmed the first female justices.
President Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party controls 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis.
Shujune, who resigned from the civil court in 2014, was among the first two female judges appointed to the bench in 2007. Dr Azmiralda was the most senior female judge in the country until her resignation from the High Court in May 2016.
President Solih’s nomination of the pair last month sparked a backlash from religious scholars who contended that Islam prohibits women from serving as judges. The religious conservative Adhaalath Party, which is part of the MDP-led ruling coalition, backed the opinion but acknowledged the lack of consensus on the question.
The former judges were nominated after parliament amended the Judicature Act to increase the size of the Supreme Court bench from five to seven justices.