Amendment to Legal Profession Act strips away independence of judiciary and the Bar: Bar Council President

Supreme Court of the Maldives | Photo: PSM

Malé, Maldives – The President of the Bar Council of the Maldives on Wednesday stated that the amendment proposed by the government to the Maldivian Legal Profession Act (No. 5/2019) strips away the independence of judiciary and the Bar.

The new amendment proposed by government, sponsored by Hon. Ikram Hassan, MP for Dhiggaru, states that a judge will lose his law license and be unable to practice law once they are removed from their position as a judge by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

The bill states that judges who commit a major violation will never be able to practice law again while they may apply for a license after five years for minor violations. The bill further adds that even if a judge resigns while his case has been submitted to the parliament by the JSC, their case will follow this rule.

Bar Council was not consulted regarding the [Bill on Amendment to the Maldivian Legal Profession Act (No. 5/2019)]

Regarding this, the President of BCM stated that the Bar Council was not consulted regarding the amendment before proposing, however, he added that the council may be consulted during the committee stage.

While the Bar Council has not made a formal stand on the amendment, President Hameed stated that “if enacted, it would undermine the Bar Council’s authority to regulate the legal profession by effectively transferring to JSC, power to revoke some licences to practice law.”

Being subject to the vagaries of politics, the Bar would no longer be self-regulating.

He also added that the bill would act as a “disincentive to serve the public in a judicial capacity can only harm the administration of justice.”

No independent-minded judge will be safe, not even if they leave office.

BCM President Hameed shared concerns about the judiciary itself, by describing the bill as “chilling,” and an “overt threat of deprivation of one’s entire livelihood if one chooses to place justice above political interests.”

While calling legal professionals to make their stance known on the amendment, the Bar Council President stated that the bill as “not just a law” but “a blatant stripping away of the independence of both the judiciary and the Bar.”

The governments of Maldives have previously used varying degrees of influence from threatening to detention on multiple occasions to coerce judges, alarming the international human rights regulators.