Structure of the Judiciary
The Maldives follow a three-tier court system: Supreme Court, High Court and Lower Courts. Lower Courts are divided into two categories, Superior Courts and Magistrate Courts. Every court has jurisdiction to overturn the decisions of courts lower than that court. (Article 143(c)). Each court is bound by the rulings of the courts above it (Article 143(d)).
The Supreme Court is the highest authority for the administration of justice in the Maldives and the Chief Justice is the highest authority of the Supreme Court. (Article 141(b). TheÂ Supreme CourtÂ consists of the Chief Justice and an uneven number of Judges as provided by Article 145(a) of the Constitution. As set out in section 5 of Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010) total numbers of judges in the Supreme Court is 5(Five) including the Chief Justice.
Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
Pursuant to Article 15(c) of the Constitution, the Supreme Court is the final authority on the interpretation of the Constitution, the law, or any other matter dealt with by a court of law. By virtue of section 9 of the Judicature Act (Law No. 22/2010), the Supreme Court shall have the following powers;
The matters which are to be decided only by the Supreme Court are listed under section 10 of the Judicature Act. These are as follows;
- Matters submitted under Article 74 of the Constitution requesting for a Supreme Court ruling to settle a controversy regarding the qualifications or removal or vacancy of seats of a member of the Peopleâ€™s Majlis;
- Matters submitted under Article 113 of the Constitution to determine all disputes concerning the qualification or disqualification of a presidential candidate or running mate, the election of a President or the removal of the President by the Peopleâ€™s Majlis;
- Matters submitted under Article 258 of the Constitution to determine issues with regard to the validity in whole or part of the declaration of the state of emergency, or any law or decree made pursuant to the declaration.
Under section 11 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010), the Supreme Court has the inherent jurisdiction to adjudicate on constitutional issues with the following characteristics –
- An issue with legal reasons which may send the country into a constitutional void or remove it from the constitutional framework; or
- A dispute between two powers or institutions of the State regarding the interpretation of the Constitution; or
- A constitutional issue concerning Public interest of the nation.
Appellate Jurisdiction Â
Section 12 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010) provides that appellate jurisdiction is that jurisdiction of the Supreme Court which empowers it to enquire into any decision or order or ruling of the High Court, on matters submitted by the party to the case contesting the decision on grounds of breaching the Constitution, a law or a regulation made pursuant to a statute.
Direction under Article 95 of the Constitution
The Supreme Court holds the jurisdiction to advice on matters referred to it pertaining to a resolution passed by the Peopleâ€™s Majlis under Article 95 of the Constitution concerning important questions or clarifications regarding the law.
High Court of the Maldives is set up under Article 146(a) of the Constitution. As per section 27 of the Judicature Act (Law N0.22/2010), the court is constituted by total 9 (nine) Judges including the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge is the head of the High Court who is appointed by the Judicial Service Commission under section 29 of the Judicature Act. High Court of Maldives consists of 3 separate branches â€“ located at capital Maleâ€™, Addu City and Hdh. Kulhudhuffushi.
Jurisdiction of the High Court
As per section 36 of the Judicature Act, the High Court has the following powers-
(a)Â Â Adjudicate matters stated in the Constitution or a Law as High Court shall be the first instance court.
(b)Â Cases stated in Article 37 of the Judiciature Act. The Â High Court has original jurisdiction in these cases.
(c)Â Â Appeal from the decisions of the lower courts.
(d)Â Appeal from the decisions of the tribunal.
Under Circular No.2010/01/SC of the Supreme Court of the Maldives, a Higher Court i.e. the High Court and the Supreme Court of the Maldives is empowered to issue Supervisory Jurisdiction Orders.
These Writs includes; (a)Â Certiorari, (b)Â Habeas Corpus, (c)Â Mandamus, andÂ (c)Â Prohibition.
The functions of the Superior Courts can effortlessly be implied from the names; the Civil Court is concerned with all civil cases except family matters; the Criminal Court decides in criminal cases; the Family Court is concerned with all family affairs in general; the Juvenile Court in all cases in which juveniles are involved and the Drug Court has the jurisdiction to decide matters involving drugs as per set in Drugs Act (Law no:—-) for the prevention of the use of drugs in Maldives.
Superior Courts are located in the capital city Maleâ€™. However, divisions of Superior Courts could be established in the rest of inhabited islands. Accordingly, a division of Civil Court has been now established in Hulhumaleâ€™.
Magistrate courts are located in the administrative divisions of the atolls of the Maldives, with a Magistrate Court in each inhabited island.Â Under section 63 of the Judicature Act, there shall be a Magistrate Court in each inhabited island except in the capital City Maleâ€™. The Magistrate Court shall be abolished in any island upon the establishment of divisions of the four Superior Courts; Civil Court, Criminal Court, Family Court and Juvenile Court.Â At the moment, there are 192 Magistrate Courts in the country.
Appointment of Judges
The Judges are independent, and subject only to the Constitution and the law. When deciding matters on which the Constitution or the law is silent, judges must consider IslamicÂ Shariâ€™ah.In performance of their judicial functions, Judges must apply the Constitution and the law impartially and without fear, favor or prejudice as stated at Article 142 of the Constitution. As per Article 148(c) of the Constitution, the Judges shall be appointed without term, but shall retire at the age of seventy years.
Appointment of the Chief Justice
Pursuant to Article 147 of the Constitution there shall be a Chief Justice of the Maldives. The President as the Head of State shall appoint the Chief Justice, after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and confirmation of the appointee by a majority of the members of the Peopleâ€™ Majilis present and voting.
Appointment of Supreme Courtâ€™s Judges
The President as the Head of State shall appoint the Judges of the Supreme Court, after consulting the Judicial Service Commission and confirmation of the appointees by a majority of the members of the Peopleâ€™s Majilis present and voting.
Appointment of High Court, Lower Courtâ€™s Judges
High Court and lower Courtâ€™s judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission according to Judicature Act (22/2010).
Qualifications of Judges
General Qualifications of judges are set out in 149 of the Constitution of the Maldives and it reads as follows;
- A person appointed as a judge in accordance with law, must possess the educational qualifications, experience and recognized competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, and must be of high moral character.
- In addition to the qualification specified above, a judge shall possess the following qualification: (a) be a Muslim and a follower of a Sunni school of Islam; (b) be twenty-five years of age; (c) has not been convicted of an offence for which aÂ haddÂ is prescribed in Islam, criminal breach of trust, or bribery; (d) be of sound mind.
- A person appointed to be a Judge of Supreme Court, shall be at least thirty years of age; possess at least seven yearsâ€™ experience as a Judge or practicing lawyer or both as a Judge and a practicing lawyer, and must be educated in Islamic Shariah orÂ law.
Tenure and Removal of Judges
Articles 154 of the Constitution provides that a judge may be removed from office only if the Judicial Service Commission finds that the concerned person is grossly incompetent, or that the judge is guilty of gross misconduct, and submits to the Peopleâ€™s Majilis a resolution supporting the removal of the Judge, which is passed by a two-third majority of the members of the Peopleâ€™s Majlis present and voting.