The Supreme Court of the Maldives during the last four years has taken numerous important steps to ensure easy access to justice and strengthen the judiciary. The main focus being to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens, to resolve legal disputes in a fair and transparent manner, and to ensure justice through an independent, honest, and effective judicial system. Following are some of the important reforms implement.
Re-organization of the Civil Court and creation of Civil and Commercial Division in Hulumale and Dispute Resolution Division
Re-organisation of the Civil Court divisions will ensure speedy judicial proceedings as each new case filed will first go to the Dispute Resolution Division within the first 3 days of submission of the case and if the claim is not resolved through dispute resolution then the case will proceed to hearings, wherein the Direction of the Supreme Court includes a time frame for the adjudication process. Most of the small claims including credit card issues and small loan issues submitted by the financial institutions are successfully resolved. Furthermore, with the establishment of the Commercial Division it will ensure that commercial disputes are resolved effectively, and it will act as an effective contract enforcement mechanism.
The establishment of a Civil Court Division in Hulhumale' will ensure easy access and speedy justice. The enhancement of the mercantile justice system will be especially beneficial to the foreign investors looking to invest in the Maldives. The establishment of the new Division will also ensure less cost and easy access to justice as people do not have to travel to capital Male' to initiate proceedings. This will further help reduce backlog in the Civil court as cases will be handled by an additional division thus ensuring speedy justice for the people residing in Hulhumale'.
Procedural changes to appeal from first instance courts and tribunals to the High Court;
Procedural changes to appeal from first instance courts and tribunals to the High Court; Two main changes was brought to the appeal process: firstly, appellants are required to submit the appeal forms, within 10 days of the judgment, to the first instance court or tribunal which adjudicated the matter originally, rather than the High Court directly. Secondly, the first instance court or tribunal is required to send the appeal forms and relevant documents to the High Court within 7 days of the submission and within 7 days of receiving the forms High Court is required to ensure that all procedural requirements for the appeal is completed.
Procedural changes to appeal from first instance courts and tribunals to the High Court will ensure fair and speedy justice. Since the appeal application is to be made to the first instance court or tribunal which originally adjudicated on the matter, the applicant is saved from unnecessary cost of travelling to Capital Male' or to the island where the High Court branch is located. Furthermore, it will ensure speedy justice as appeals are required to proceed within the time frame given in the Direction of the Supreme Court of Maldives.
Introduction of 2 Branches of High Court to further enhance excess to justice; Though, High Court has always been located at capital island Male', two branches of High court was introduced to be located in the Southern region and Northern region of Maldives.
Introduction of 2 Branches of High Court; Though, High Court has always been located at capital island Male', two branches of High court was introduced to be located in the Southern region and Northern region of Maldives. As such all appeals from first instance courts and tribunals of Northern region will proceed through the High Court branch located in that region and all appeals from first instance courts and tribunals of Southern region will be heard in the High Court located in the Nothern region and appeals from first instance courts and tribunals of Male', Lhaviyani, Kaafu, Alifalif, Alif dhaal, Vaavu, Meemu, Faafu, Dhaal, Thaa and laamu Atolls will be heard in the High Court located in Male'. With the Introduction of 2 Branches of High Court, it will ensure less cost and easy access to justice as people do not have to travel to Male' to initiate appeal proceedings. This will further help reduce backlog in the High Court as appeals will be handled by additional two courts as such it will ensure speedy justice.
Procedural changes in the execution of judgment in civil cases will ensure easy access to justice, less cost and effort to the parties as now execution of judgment will be court initiated
Procedural changes in the execution of judgment in civil cases; According to this change in the process of execution of judgment in civil cases, once a case has been adjudicated upon, it will be automatically transferred to the execution of judgment section for the judgment to be executed. This eliminates the need for a party to initiate judgment execution proceedings. To implement this change, any civil matter dealt with by the Supreme Court, High Court or Criminal Court will be executed through the Execution of Judgment Division of the Civil Court and all other courts with the jurisdiction to deal with civil matters is required to establish a specific division for execution of judgment.
Procedural changes in execution of judgment in civil cases will ensure easy access to justice, less cost and effort to the parties as now execution of judgment will be court initiated.
Measures were taken to reduce backlog and increase efficiency in disposing cases timely. (reporting of magistrate court statistic weekly to department of judicial administration)
The Supreme Court under the initiative of the Chief justice issued a circular (no.08/2015) with a directive for the courts to organize case management and clear the backlog within a span of one month. The circular also instructed the Department of Judicial Administration to facilitate to expedite the process. Following the Supreme Court directive, a series of measures were put in place to provide for effective case management. During the course of the year, judicial delegation travelled to Atolls to conduct special programs designed to clear the backlog of magistrate courts. 1519 cases were cleared under the mission. Other programs focused on effective case management carried out in 2016 included the establishment of a classification and scheduling mechanism of cases received by the courts as well as the introduction of performance indicators to monitor the productivity of courts.
Under the mechanism weekly statistics were gathered across the country to assess the rate of case clearance and evaluate the performance of the courts, the result of which was steady case clearance rate of 103% was maintained throughout the year.
Establishment of the Maldives Judicial Academy with a specially designed adopted Curriculum for continuous judicial education for judges, lawyers and judicial staff.
Maldives Judicial Academy was establish by the Justices’ Council of the Supreme Court on 16th Dhul Qadah 1436, corresponding to 31st August 2015. On the same date, the Justices’ Council also passed the Regulation on Administering the Maldives Judicial Academy 2015 (MJA Regulation), which came into force on the 01st of December 2015.
Following the advice of the advisory counsel chaired by the Chief Justice of the Maldives, the Academy is to take all responsibility in conducting continuing judicial education and legal training programs for its target audiences; namely, judges of the Maldives, members of the Maldives Bar, and the staff of the Courts and other institutions of the Maldives Judiciary (See 3.5). As such, the Academy shall conduct orientation and induction programs, and provide in-service training to judges and staff of the Maldives Judiciary, and also conduct orientation for newly admitted members of the Bar and provide additional training opportunities for lawyers.
Inauguration of the law report database for easy access to case reports on one platform
The Law Report Database is a platform where the Constitution of the Maldives, the laws, regulations, decrees, procedures and rulings are organized in one place. The database which provides easy access to the rulings given by the Supreme Court and the High Court of the Maldives with reference to the respective laws and regulations was inaugurated on 06 December 2016 at the colloquium, “Doing Business in Maldives – A Judicial Perspective”.
The law reporting screens of the database are divided into five segments. These segments include laws, regulations, procedures, decrees and rulings. Each segment is prepared so that the sections in the respective segment can be filtered and a PDF can be viewed without opening an additional screen. Amendments to laws and rulings given with reference to these amendments can also be viewed on the same page. The database was developed and is maintained by the Department of Judicial Administration.
Strengthening the Legal Profession
Since the process of registering new lawyers and managing other areas related to the profession were previously carried out by the Judiciary but recently the work was transferred to the Attorney General’s Office. The involvement of an external source in matters of the legal profession inevitably gave rise to many challenges and created obstructions to the principles laid out in the Constitution in order to protect the independence of the courts and prevent the misuse of the judicial system.
Pursuant to the Constitution, the laws and other procedures governing the legal profession, lawyers remain free from influence and that their conduct is defined in accordance with the standards set forth by their profession, it was essential that professional matters related to the trial lawyers were regulated and monitored. As such the licensing of lawyers and other matters related to the legal profession were restored to the Judiciary in 2015. In this respect it was decided that the license to practice law will be issued by the highest judicial authority, the Supreme Court of the Maldives, the lawyers registry was to be maintained by the Department of Judicial Administration and it became mandatory for new attorneys to complete the orientation program conducted by the Maldives Judicial Academy during their trainee period. The principles related to raise the professional standard of the National Curriculum on Sharia’ and Law were established in order to increase the professional capacity and the educational standards of lawyers who join the profession. Numerous efforts were carried out in 2016 to implement this.
:: The lawyers’ registry comprising of attorneys who have been licensed to practice law in the Maldives was compiled and re published in 2016.
:: The first ceremony to license attorneys at law as according to Article 4 and 5 of the Regulation on Licensing Attorneys to Practice Law in the Maldives (Ruling/SC-RU/032015 of the Supreme Court of the Maldives) was held on 17 October 2016.
:: The Supreme Court of the Maldives held a discussion meeting with the Maldives Qualifications Authority (M.Q.A) to decide on matters related to raise the professional standards of attorneys who practice law in the Maldives.
:: The Judicial Academy of the Maldives formulated the concept for the orientation of trainee attorneys as prescribed in Schedule 2 (Schedule on Trainee Attorneys) of the Regulation on Licensing Attorneys to Practice Law in the Maldives. The orientation program is on acclimatizing trainee lawyers to the legal and judicial system of the Maldives and the first opportunity to join the program was opened by the Maldives Judicial Academy.