UPDATE: Legal System and Research of Maldives
By Mariyam Sahula, Areef Ahmed Naseer and Md. Ershadul Karim
Mariyam Sahulais a lawyer and served as an Assistant Public Prosecutor in Maldives. She obtained LLB (Hons.) from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), LLM from University of Malaysia (UM) and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at UM, Malaysia.
Areef Ahmed Naseer is a lawyer, was a Senior Legal Counsel in a Law Firm and served as a Member of the Employment Tribunal of Maldives. He obtained LLB (Hons.) from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), MSc from Global University of Islamic Finance (INCEIF), and is currently pursuing Ph.D. at INCEIF, Malaysia.
Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with Bangladesh Supreme Court.
Published September/October 2020
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Legal History of Maldives
- 3. The Constitution
- 4. The Political System
- 5. The Executive
- 6. The President’s Duties and Powers
- 7. The Cabinet
- 7.1. Attorney General
- 8. Local Councils
- 9. Statutory Bodies
- 9.1. Judicial Service Commission
- 9.2. Prosecutor General’s Office
- 9.3. Human Rights Commission of the Maldives
- 9.4. Civil Service Commission of the Maldives
- 9.5. Election Commission
- 9.6. National Integrity Commission
- 9.7. Maldives Broadcasting Commission
- 9.8. Maldives Media Council
- 9.9. Anti-Corruption Commission
- 9.10.Auditor General
- 9.11. Maldives Inland Revenue Authority
- 9.12. Capital Market Development Authority
- 9.13. Maldives Monetary Authority
- 9.14. Maldives Pension Administration Office
- 9.15. Local Government Authority
- 10. The Parliament, People’s Majlis
- 11. The Judiciary
- 12. The Court System
- 12.1. Supreme Court of the Maldives
- 12.2. High Court of the Maldives
- 12.3. Lower Courts
- 13. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
- 14. Quasi-Judicial Bodies/Tribunals
- 15. Criminal Laws
- 16. Family Laws
- 17. Islamic Law
- 18. Civil Laws
- 19. Legal Profession
- 20. Law firms
- 21. Legal Education and Research
- 22. Database of Laws of Maldives
- 23. Invest Maldives
- 24. Ministries of Maldives
- 25. International Treaties
Maldives is a coral island nation in the Indian Ocean, near India and Sri Lanka. The country is made up of 1200 islands which spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres including both land and sea. Each coral island is surrounded by white sandy beaches and clear waters, which are no more than 2 meters above the sea level. For administrative purposes, the islands are grouped into 20 atolls (an Atoll (atholhu) is a group of islands). Some atolls consist of several islands, while 1 atoll consists of only 1 island. Access to various islands are mainly by boats provided by each island or resort. The capital of Maldives is called Male’ City. Male’ is the place of interest to vacationers. See Atolls of the Maldives, Map (last visited August 2020) for more information about the distribution of atolls.
Islam is the state religion of Maldives (Article 10, the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, 2008) and it is requirement for citizenship. Maldivians are Sunni Muslims. The Islamic Centre and The Grand Friday Mosque, built in 1984 with funding from the Persian Gulf states, Pakistan, Brunei, and Malaysia, located in the capital, Male’ City, became a famous tourist attraction. Several mosques (miski) are built on the inhabited Islands. The Maldives mainland prohibits alcohol and pork. However tourist resorts have obtained special licences to serve alcohol and pork to foreign tourists.
Dhivehi is the local language (Article 11, the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives, 2008). Dhivehi is spoken throughout Maldives. However, dialects differ in some parts of the Maldives. Dilects are prominent among the four southernmost atolls, namely, Huvadhu atoll, Fuvamulah, Addu City and Haddhunmathi atoll. The traditional script is called “Thaana,” which is written from right to left. English is widely spoken as the second language and considered as the language of business.
Only about 200 of the islands are inhabited with an approximate population of 436,330 people. The largest concentration of Maldives' population is in the capital, Male City. There are 3 cities in Maldives, namely, Addu City, Fuamulah City and the capital Male’ City. These Cities are well developed, compared to the remaining inhabited islands. The population of Maldives is young: 50% of the population is under 18 years of age and the population growth rate is 3.4%. The population of Maldives belongs entirely to the Maldivian ethnic group.
Maldivian culture has been influenced by Indian, Sri Lankan, Arab and African cultures. The traditional music is “Bodu Beru,” performed mostly by large groups of men consisting of drummers and singers. The South Asian influence is seen in the traditional food, which includes spicy curries using coconut milk and fish as the main staples and ‘roshi’ (a thin flatbread) as an accompaniment.
Maldives has a developing economy. Tourism and fishing are the two main industries in Maldives. The agricultural lands scattered over many small islands are insignificant, therefore nearly all the staple foods must be imported. Fishing has become the backbone of the economy. It provides one-fourth of the labour force and a major portion of the export revenues. Majority of the fishes caught are tuna and tuna related species by pole-and-line fishing. Fish processing and cold storage facilities are in Lhaviyani, Gaafu Alif and Laamu Atolls. Most of the fish catch is sold to foreign companies for processing and export.
Tourism is the fastest growing sector of the economy. The uninhabited islands have been developed into tourist resorts. Many of the tourist islands give tourists modern styled bungalows, with thatched roofs to blend in with the natural landscape. Each resort is a small self-contained community preserving the unspoilt island atmosphere. Restaurants serve buffets and individual meals which utilize the riches of the sea. Modern hotels in the capital Male’ City and guest houses on inhabited islands have attracted increasing numbers of tourists.
Industries are mostly of the handicraft or cottage type, including the making of coir (coconut-husk fibre) and coir products, boatbuilding, and construction. The Maldives’ economy is open to international trade. Trade activities are diverse. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Singapore are among its main trading partners. Maldives operates its national airlines and seaplanes, and the airports at HulhuMale’, Hanimaadhoo, Maafaru and Gan handle international traffic. Its economy continued to grow at a rate of 6.8% in 2018 and 5.2% in 2019. See the website of Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund for more information about the economy of the Maldives.
With a documented history of more than 2500 years, the country was sultanate under Portuguese rule for about fifteen years in the mid-16th Century and then was a British protectorate. In 1965, the country obtained full independence and joined the United Nations. The Maldives legal system is based on an admixture of Islamic Law and English common law, which greatly influences the civil and commercial laws of the country.
When the British came to control most of the areas of the Indian Ocean by the late nineteenth century, the Maldivian Sultan entered into an agreement with the Governor of Ceylon in 1887, which allowed the country to enjoy the status of a protected state without actually becoming a protectorate. The British could control external affairs only and had no authority over the internal affairs of the country. Finally, the country became independent in July 1965.
On the historical development, legal history, sources of Maldivian Laws, court system, and criminal justice system, please see the paper titled Political System of the Ancient Kingdom of Maldives. , See also the Commonwealth country profile on Maldives and Commonwealth Governance for more information about the country.
The first written Constitution of Maldives was adopted on 22 December 1932. Since then, there have been seven Constitutions adopted in the country in the years of 1932, 1942, 1953, 1954, 1968, 1997 and 2008. The present Constitution, which came into force on 7th October 2008, has been amended four times and was recently amended in 2019.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Article 268 of the Constitution provides as follows: “All laws of the Maldives must be enacted in accordance with this Constitution. Any law or part of any law inconsistent with this Constitution is, to the extent of its inconsistency, void and of no force and effect. The obligations imposed by this Constitution must be fulfilled. Any conduct contrary to this Constitution shall be invalid.” The Constitution of Maldives guarantees fundamental rights and freedom to all persons in Chapter II of the Constitution (Articles 16-69).
Furthermore, the Constitution of Maldives provides for powers, obligations and duties of the Parliament, the President and the Judiciary. It also, provides functions and mandates of the Constitutional Bodies, those facilities to run the State smoothly and uphold the Constitution.
Maldives is a multiparty presidential republic. The three branches of government, i.e. Executive, Judiciary and the Parliament, work separately and independently, resembling the American style of Separation of Powers.
Article 4 of the Constitution provides that all the powers of the State of the Maldives are derived from, and remain within, the citizens. Article 5 of the Constitution states that all legislative power in the Maldives is vested in the People’s Majlis and Article 6 of the Constitution provides that the executive power is vested in the President. By virtue of Article 7 of the Constitution, the judicial power is vested in the courts of the Maldives.
Under Article 6 of the Constitution, the executive power is vested in the President. The President is elected by direct vote of the people. He is the head of the State, the Head of the Government and the Head of Armed Forces. The President delegates his duties and powers through his Ministers and officers appointed as per the laws at the national level. At the local levels, the government duties are designated to the local councils, i.e. Island’s Council, Atoll’s Council and City’s Council. These councils are elected by the direct vote of the citizens i.e. the Island’s Council is elected by the island community, the Atoll’s Council is elected by the Atolls’ community and the City’s Council is elected by the City community. See the website of the President’s Office for more relevant information.
Pursuant to Article 115 of the Constitution of the Maldives, the President shall have the following duties and powers:
- To faithfully implement the provisions of the Constitution and the law, and to promote compliance by organs of the state and by the people.
- To supervise the efficient and harmonious functioning of all departments of Government.
- To promote the rule of law, and to protect the rights and freedoms of all people.
- To guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of the Maldives, and to promote respect for national sovereignty in the international community.
- To formulate fundamental policies of the state and to submit policies and recommendations to appropriate agencies and institution of Government.
- To appoint, dismiss and accept the resignation of members of the cabinet, and such officials necessary for the proper functioning of the duties his office.
- To preside over the Cabinet of Ministers.
- To issue declarations of war and peace, and to immediately submit such declaration to the People’s Majlis for approval.
- To declare a state of emergency,
- To determine, conduct and oversee the foreign policy of the country, and to conduct political relations with foreign nations and international organizations.
- To enter into general treaties and agreements with foreign states and international organizations, which do not impose any obligations on citizens.
- To enter into and ratify, with the approval of the People’s Majlis, treaties and agreements with foreign states and international organizations, which impose obligations on citizens.
- To appoint members of diplomatic missions to foreign countries and international organizations in consultation with the People’s Majlis.
- To recall and remove from office members of diplomatic missions to foreign countries and international organizations.
- To receive and recognize the credentials of diplomatic and consular representatives of foreign countries and other parties and to accept their letters of recall.
- To appoint temporary commissions to advise the President on national issues of national importance.
- To hold public referendums on issues of national importance.
- To declarer national and government holidays.
- To issue awards, medals and honorary titles, as provided by law.
- To grant pardons or reductions of the sentence as provided by law, to the person convicted of a criminal offence who have no further right of appeal.
- To ensure that the security services comply with their obligations as provide in the constitution.
- To perform all other duties specifically authorized by the constitution and by law.
The Constitution under Article 129 provides that there shall be a Cabinet of Ministers to be appointed by the President of the Constitution. It consists of the Vice President, the Ministers in charge of different Ministries, and the Attorney General. The President must receive the approval of the People’s Majlis for the appointments of the members of the cabinet except for the appointment of the Vice President.
The Attorney General is the legal advisor to the Government as per Article 133(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives. He is also a member of the Cabinet. The Attorney General is appointed by the President of Maldives in accordance with Article 115 of the Constitution. The powers vested with the Attorney General include advising the Government on all legal matters affecting the State, performing all duties pertaining to the Attorney General’s Office and discharging all responsibilities required by the constitution and by law. He is responsible for representing the State in all courts of the Maldives in all civil matters, as well as promoting, protecting, upholding and defending the rule of law, public safety, freedoms of the public and public interest. His functions also include legal draftings and to provide legal aid to the needy in criminal cases. See the website of the Attorney General’s Office for more information.
Under 230 (a) of the Constitution, the administrative division of the Maldives shall be administrated decentrally. Schedule II of the Constitution provides for the list of the administrative divisions (known as “Atolls”) in the Maldives. By virtue of Article 230(b) of the Constitution, the President has the power to create constituencies, posts, Island Councils, Atoll Councils and City Councils. The Decentralization Act, 2010 (Law N0.7/2010) (unofficial translation) provides for three types of local authorities in the Maldives namely, (a) Atoll’s Councils (section 6), (b) Island’s Council (section 21) and (c) City’s Council (section 39).
Article 157 of the Constitution provides that there shall be a Judicial Service Commission , which is an independent and impartial institution.
By virtue of Article 159 of the Constitution, the Commission is entrusted with the following responsibilities and powers:
- To appoint, promote and transfer Judges other than the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court, and to make recommendations to the President on the appointment of the Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court.
- To investigate complaints about the Judiciary, and to take disciplinary action against them, including recommendations for dismissal.
- To make rules.
1. regarding schemes for recruitment and procedures for the appointment of Judges.
2. ethical standards of Judges.
3.providing for such matters as are necessary or expedient for the exercise, performance and discharge of the duties and responsibilities of the Commission.
- To advise the President and the Peoples Majlis on any other matter relating to the Judiciary or the administration of justice.
- To exercise such additional powers and functions prescribed by the constitution or by law.
Article 160 of the Constitution provides that the President, as Head of the State, shall constitute the Judicial Service Commission as specified under Article 158 of the Constitution, and it shall consist of:
- The Speaker of the People’s Majlis
- A judge of the Supreme Court other than the Chief Justice, elected by the Judges of the Supreme Court
- A judge of the High Court, elected by the Judges of the High Court
- A Judge of the Trial Courts, elected by the Judges of the Trial Court
- A member of the People’s Majlis appointed by it
- A member of the general public appointed by the People’s Majlis
- The Chair of the Civil Service Commission
- A person appointed by the President
- The Attorney General
- A lawyer elected from the lawyer licensed to practice in the Maldives by themselves
A member of the Judicial Service Commission appointed pursuant to Article 158 (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), (h) or (j) of the Constitution, may be removed from office by the President. Members of the Judicial Service Commission appointed by virtue of the office held pursuant to Articles 158 (a), (g), or (i) of the Constitution shall be removed from membership of the Judicial Service Commission upon vacation of the office he holds as provided in Article 165 of the Constitution.
The Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) was brought under the control of the Judicial Service Commission with the 2nd amendment (Law No.11/2019) to the Judicial Service Commission’s Act (Law No.10/2008). The department was previously under the direct control of the Supreme Court of the Maldives. The department is mandated to organize, implement and oversee all the administrative works of the judiciary.
The Prosecutor General is appointed under Article 221 of the Constitution by the President with the consent of a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majilis. As per article 220 (c) of the Constitution, the Prosecutor General is independent and impartial, and he shall not be under the direction or control of any person or authority in carrying out his responsibilities and the exercise of his powers. He shall carry out his responsibilities and exercise his powers, duties and responsibilities as set out in article 223 of the Constitution without fear, favour or prejudice, subject only to the general policy directives of the Attorney General, and on the basis of fairness, transparency, and accountability. See the website of Prosecutor General’s Office for more information.
Pursuant to Article 189 of the Constitution of Maldives, the Human Rights Commission of the country was established. This is an independent and impartial institution to promote respect for human rights in the country. See the website of Human Rights Commission of Maldives and Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center for more information.
Article 179 of the Constitution of Maldives provides that there shall be a Civil Service Commission. The Civil Service Commission is an independent and impartial institution responsible to recruit, appoint, promote, transfer and dismiss the members of the Civil Service in accordance with the Maldivian Civil Service Act 2007 (unofficial English translation).
The Election Commission of Maldives is set up under Article 167 of the Constitution and has the following duties:
- To conduct, manage, supervise and facilitate all elections and public referendum.
- To register political parties and to perform those actions relating to political parties as specified by law.
The responsibilities and powers of the Election Commission are set out under Article 170 of the Constitution.
The National Integrity Commission (NIC) was established under National Integrity Commission Act (Law No.27/2015) (unofficial translation) . This Commission is an independent entity possessing powers to undertake its mandate in its own capacity. The National Integrity Commission Act (Law No.27/2015) has dissolved the previous Police Integrity Commission (PIC) and the Customs Integrity Commission (CIC).
The Maldives Broadcasting Commissionwas set up through the provisions of the Establishment of Broadcasting Act (Law No.16/2010) (unofficial English translation). This Commission is an independent body established to regulate the media in the country.
The Maldives Media Council was set up under the Maldives Media Council Act (Law No.15/2008). The main functions of the Council are to preserve, promote and maintain the freedom of the press within the legal framework of the Country and to encourage the growth of a sense of responsibility, public service, ethics and a high standard of professionalism among all those engaged in the profession of journalism.
The Anti-Corruption Commission was established under Article 199 of the Constitution for the purpose provided under Article 202 of the Constitution and to inquire into and investigate all allegations of corruption. Responsibilities and powers of the Commission are provided under Article 202 0f the Constitution and procedures for the appointment of the Commission’s members are provided under Articles 200 and 201 of the Constitution. The Commission is governed under Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2008 (Law No.13/2008).
The Auditor General of Maldives is appointed by the President of the country. The Auditor General is appointed under Article 210 of the Constitution of the Republic of Maldives. As per Article 212 of the Constitution, the Auditor General has the responsibility to audit the accounts, financial statements and financial managements, and to prepare and publish reports on all government ministries, departments, agencies and offices. The Auditor General is appointed for a term of 7 years.
The Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) was set up under the Tax Administration Act (Law No.3/2010) for the purpose of implementing the tax related law and tax policies. The Objectives of MIRA are to:
- Enforce the Taxation Acts and implement taxation policies.
- Carry out all work in respect of receiving all tax imposed by the State pursuant to the law.
- Ascertain whether the amount of tax payable has been calculated in accordance with the law and regulations and that any tax, fees or other monies payable are being paid in full as and when they fall due.
- Have regard for the rights of Taxpayers whilst exercising the authority of the MIRA.
- Give full and complete information to Taxpayers on the Taxation Acts and regulations, and make efforts to minimize the costs involved for Taxpayers in making tax payments.
- Plan a system, whereby the costs of administering tax will be minimized.
- Prescribe the content and prepare tax returns, claims, statements, notices and other such forms required under the Taxation Acts and make any amendments, if required.
The Capital Market Development Authority was established under the Maldives Securities Act (Law no.2/2006). It has statutory powers to license securities market intermediaries including brokers, dealers, investment advisers, asset managers, custodians, credit rating agencies as well as stock exchanges and central depositories. The regulatory powers are derived under the Maldives Securities Act, 2006 and Maldives Pension Act 2009 (Law No. 8/2009).
The Maldives Monetary Authority, the central bank of the country, was established under the Maldives Monetary Authority Act (Law No.6/1981). In accordance with the provisions of Presidential Decree No. 2002/6 dated 16 January 2002, the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) has the sole responsibility for the regulation and supervision of the insurance industry in the Republic of the Maldives.
The Local Government Authority of Maldives was established under Section 60 of the Decentralization Act (Law No.7/2010) as a body to oversee local councils.
The legislative authority of the Maldives is vested in the People’s Majlis by virtue of Article 70(a) of the Constitution. Article 70(b) of the Constitution provides that the law-making powers of the People’s Majilis include the following;
- The amendment of the Constitution, in accordance with the terms provided in the Constitution.
- The enactment of legislation with regard to any matter, or the amendment or repeal of any law, which is not inconsistent with any tenet of Islam.
- The supervision of the exercise of executive authority and ensuring the executing authority is accountable for the exercise of its powers, and taking the steps required for ensuring the same.
- The approval of the annual budget and any supplementary budget.
- The determination of matters relating to Independent Commissions and Independent Offices in accordance with law.
- The holding of public referendums on issues of public importance.
- The performance of all duties otherwise expressly required by the Constitution and by law.
In addition to these, as per Article 70(c) of the Constitution, the People’s Majlis shall not pass any law that contravenes any tenant of Islam. Any matter submitted to the People’s Majlis for approval includes the power of the People’s Majilis to accept, reject, revoke or amend the disposition of the matter (Article 70(d)). Any appointment or dismissal submitted to the People’s Majlis to accept or reject the appointment or dismissal. The term of People’s Majlis is 5 (five) years.
Government bills are submitted through the ruling party and private bills are submitted by individual members in the Parliament. Bills relating to taxation can only be submitted by the government. When a bill is submitted to Parliament it goes for three readings before becoming a law.
Article 91 of the Constitution provides that every bill passed by the People’s Majlis shall be presented for assent by the President within seven days from the date of its passing, and the President shall, within fifteen days of receipt, assent to the bill or return the bill for reconsideration of the bill or of any amendments proposed by the President. Article 91(b) of the Constitution stipulates that any bill returned to the People’s Majlis for reconsideration shall be assented to by the President and published in the Government Gazette if the bill, after reconsideration, is passed without any amendments, by a majority of the total membership of the People’s Majlis. Article 91(c) of the Constitution states that any bill not returned for reconsideration or amendment or assented to by the President within the specified time shall be deemed to have been assented to by the President and shall be published in the Government Gazette.
Article 92 of the Constitution provides that a bill passed by the People’s Majlis shall become law when assented to by the President. Every bill assented to by the President shall be published in the Government Gazette on the day of assent. Such law shall come into force when it is published in the Government Gazette, or on such later date following publication stipulated in the statute.
Under Article 94 of the Constitution, the People’s Majilis may, pursuant to law and for prescribed purposes, delegate to any person or body the power to make orders, and regulations, or other instruments having a legislative effect, including the power to:
(a) determine a date on which any law shall come into or cease to have effect.
(b) make any law or part thereof applicable to any area or to any class of persons.
The judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, the High Court, and such Trial Courts as established by the law as provided in Article 141 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest authority for the administration of justice in the Maldives and the Chief Justice is the highest authority on the Supreme Court (Article 141(b)).
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 Islamic Shari’ah. In the performance of their judicial functions, judges must apply the Constitution and the law impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice as stated in 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.
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 People’ Majilis present and voting.
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 People’s Majilis present and voting.
High Court and Lower Court judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission according to the Judicature Act (Law No. 22/2010) (unofficial translation).
General qualifications of judges are set out in Article 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 a hadd 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 years’ experience as a Judge or practicing lawyer or both as a Judge and a practicing lawyer, and must be educated in Islamic Shariah or law.
Articles 154 of the Constitution provides that a judge may be removed from office only if the Judicial Service Commission finds that person is grossly incompetent or that the judge is guilty of gross misconduct, and submits to the People’s Majilis a resolution supporting the removal of the Judge, which is passed by a two-third majority of the members of the People’s Majlis present and voting.
The Maldives follow a three-tiered court system: the Supreme Court is at the top, followed by the High Court and finally the Lower Courts. Lower Courts are divided into two categories, Superior Courts and Magistrate Courts. The Supreme Court, High Court and Superior Courts are based in the capital of the country, Male’. Magistrate Courts are in the rest of the inhabited islands other than the capital island. In each inhabited island there is one Magistrate Court. Every court has jurisdiction to overturn the decision of a lower court (Article 143(c), the Constitution of the Maldives). Lower Courts shall follow the decisions of a higher court (Article 143(d), the Constitution of the Maldives).
The Supreme Court 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) (3rd Amendment, Law No. 6/2019) total numbers of judges in the Supreme Court is 7 (seven) including the Chief Justice.
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:
- Matters that shall only be decided upon by the Supreme Court as stipulated in Article 10 of this Act.
- Matters which are within the inherent jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as stipulated in Article 11 of this Act.
- Of the matters that have been adjudicated by the High Court, those that are appealed to the Supreme Court under Article 12 of this Act.
- Matters that are submitted under Article 13 of this Act, for the counsel and advice of the Supreme Court.
- Matters submitted to the Supreme Court under Article 143 (a) of the Constitution.
- All matters adjudicated by the Supreme Court under the powers bestowed upon the court as the highest authority for the administration of justice.
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 People’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 People’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 constitutional issues with the following characteristics:
(a) An issue with legal reasons which may send the country into a constitutional void or remove it from the constitutional framework.
(b) A dispute between two powers or institutions of the State regarding the interpretation of the Constitution.
(c) A constitutional issue concerning the Public interest of the nation.
Section 12 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010) provides appellate jurisdiction, where the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction 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.
Under Article 95 of the Constitution of the Maldives, the Parliament may by resolution refer to the Supreme Court for hearing and consideration, important questions of law, concerning any matter including the interpretation of the Constitution and the constitutional validity of any law. Opinions are given to the People’s Majlis by the Supreme Court of the Maldives under Article 95 of the Constitution of the Maldives.
The 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) (2nd Amendment Law No. 6/2017), the court is constituted by total 11 (eleven) 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.
As per Section 36 of the Judicature Act, the High Court has the jurisdiction to decide cases of the following nature:
- If the Constitution or a law states that the High Court shall be the first instance court in relation to certain types of cases.
- Cases stated in Section 37 of the Judicature Act, as those which has the original jurisdiction of the High Court.
- Cases which are decided by the lower courts and which are appealed.
- Cases which are decided by a tribunal and which are appealed.
The matters of original jurisdiction of the High Court is mentioned under Section 37 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010). The High Court has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the following matters on the first instance:
- A case submitted in relation to a law or a part of a law that contradicts the Constitution.
- A case submitted in relation to regulation or part of this regulation is seen to contradict the Constitution or a law.
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 a Supervisory Jurisdiction Order. These Writs include(a) Certiorari, (b) Habeas Corpus, (c) Mandamus, and (d) Prohibition.
Lower Courts are courts created under Section 52 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010) as first instance courts and courts which have the jurisdiction to try cases that are not mandated by the Constitution or a law to be carried out by other courts. Lower Courts are classified into two main categories:
- Upper category / Superior Courts
- Lower category / Magistrate Courts
Superior Courts are created as per Section 53 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010). These courts are created under the Judicature Act or created for a specific reason under another Act. These courts are located in the capital, Male’ City. Currently, existing superior Courts are:
- Criminal Court: The Criminal Court is mandated with looking into criminal matters, except for criminal activities committed by children or matters that, by law, would be assigned to a separate court.
- Civil Court: The Civil Court determines civil disputes except for those kinds of matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Family Court. It may deliberate on financial disputes, contract disputes and administrative disputes. It also has the power to implement the civil injunctions relating to the decisions of the Supreme Court, the High Court, and the Criminal Court.
- Family Court: The Family Court is mandated to determine matters pertaining to disputes arising between families. These matters include inheritance disputes, disputes about parentage, marital issues and divorce, child custody hearings and assignment of child support.
- Juvenile Court: The Juvenile Court is a specific court that deliberates on cases involving minors. Any individual below the age of eighteen, who have been accused of a crime will be tried in Juvenile Court.
- Drug Court: Persons accused of drug related offences are tried at the Drug Court. The Drug Court had the power to subject such persons to mandatory rehabilitation programs, with the aim of reintegrating them back into society.
Magistrate Courts are created under Section 62 of the Judicature Act (Law No.22/2010). The previously functioning Island Courts are transferred to the Magistrate Courts. Under section 63 of the Judicature Act, there shall be a magistrate court in each inhabited island except in the capital, Male’ City, where the Superior Court exists. Presently there are 187 Magistrate Courts in the country.
The Maldives International Arbitration Centre came into effect in 2013 under the Arbitration Act 2013 (law no. 10/2013). The Act lays out the principles of out-of-court dispute resolution between two or more parties in accordance with internationally recognized standards. Maldives acceded to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention) on 17 September 2019. As a party to the Convention, Maldivian Courts will now be obligated to recognize and enforce arbitral awards determined in other states.
There are many tribunals or quasi-judicial bodies in the Maldives. Some of these are listed below.
The Employment Tribunal was created under Section 85 of the Employment Act (Law No.2/2008). The mandate of the Employment Tribunal is to look into Employment related disputes. The objective of the Employment Tribunal is to examine and adjudicate legal matters arising in the work environment between the employer and employee and any matters ascribed to the Employment Tribunal pursuant to the Employment Act or any other Act or regulation or under any agreement, in an expeditious and simple manner. Against the decisions of the tribunal, an appeal can be preferred to the High Court.
The Tax Appeal Tribunal is created under Section 54 of the Tax Administration Act (Law No. 3/2010) to consider tax related matters. The Tribunal has the power to review and deliberate, as it deems appropriate on matters determined by the Tax Administration Act or Regulation and any other law to be adjudicated by the Tribunal. The Tribunal has the power to summon persons, elicit witness statements, obtain proof and evidence or do anything necessary to verify and elicit the truth of a matter submitted to it. Against the decisions of the tribunal, an appeal can be preferred to the High Court.
The Maldives’ Criminal System is based on several pieces of legislation and regulations. On the website of the Attorney General’s Office, legislation on criminal and judicial proceedings can be found. These include the Maldives Penal Code (MPC), Police Act and other procedural regulations made by the courts. There are special laws which deal with juvenile offenders, anti-social behavior, gang violence, domestic violence and drug related offences, etc.
In terms of prosecution, criminal offences in Maldives are divided into two parts, namely an offence prescribed under the Penal Code and an offence relating to Islamic law (known as Hudood offence).
The Police investigate the offences and the Prosecutor General defends the state. The execution and enforcement of punishment is vested by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Final Report on the Assessment of the Justice Sector Reform Proposal of Maldives was published in the recent past.
Execution of Death Penalty: Although there are provisions in Penal Code for capital punishment as a penalty, in practice such a verdict is not executed in the Maldives; rather, such verdicts convert to life imprisonment for 25 (twenty-five) years by the Head of State.
Human Rights Offences: human rights offences are investigated by the Human Rights Commission, which is an independent body set up as per the law. Maldives is a signatory country to several International Human Right treaties.
The Family Act 2000 (Law No. 4/2000) of Maldives is based on Muslim personal law. Women have the right to seek a divorce and maintenance, and polygamy is permissible within the restrictive provisions of law. However, inheritance issues are regulated by a separate piece of legislation. Some of the Gender and family related monitotoring and enforcements are carried out by the the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services of the Maldives.
Under Article 10 (a) of the Constitution of Maldives, Islam shall be one of the bases of all the laws of the country. Article 10(b) of the Constitution provides that no law contrary to any tenet of Islam shall be enacted in the Maldives. The elements of Islamic laws can be seen in areas of family, evidence and criminal laws, particularly in Hudood offences. Family law is codified. However, Hudood and other laws in the nature of Islamic law are still not codified. Some of them were based on brief regulations made by the relevant courts.
Civil laws by nature do not include criminal, family and Islamic laws. Large numbers of laws are listed on the website of the Attorney General Office. The list includes laws relating to administrative, obligations, commercial, financial and property laws, and other civil matters.
Lawyers in Maldives can practice in the public or private sector. A practicing lawyer is known as an advocate or solicitor and normally does all the work done by barristers and solicitors in England. There is only one bar, namely the Bar Council of Maldives, which is given statutory powers to regulate the profession and acts as a general watchdog on professional etiquette and standards under the recently enacted the Maldives Legal Profession Act (Law No.5/2019).
In Maldives, lawyers may serve in varied roles, including as a legal or judicial officer in the Maldives Legal sector, executive branch, an in-house counsel of a company, or practice law in a local or international law firm. In the local firm, the lawyer typically handles litigation, corporate work, conveyancing and intellectual property work. The lawyer in the international law firm is generally limited to sophisticated corporate, finance and banking transactions.
Following are some of the leading law firms in the Maldives.
- Premier Chambers, Barristers and Attorneys, Tel: +(960) 3314377, (960) 3328116, Fax: +(960) 3314378, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.premier-chambers.com
- S & A Lawyers LLP, Tel: +(960) 3344 911, +(960) 301 3200, Fax: +(960) 3344 922, Email:email@example.com, Website: http://www.suoodanwar.com/
- Shah Hussein and Co, Tel: +(960) 3333 644, Fax: +(960) 3315 453, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: https://shclawyers.com/
- Mazlan & Murad Law Associates, Tel: +(960) 3344720, Facsimile: +(960) 3344721, Email:email@example.com; Website:www.mmlawassociates.com
- Nasheed & Co, Tel: +960 3318558, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website:https://nasheeds.co/
- Ashraf & Co. The Law House, Tele: +(960) 333 7975, Fax: +(960) 333 7976, Email: email@example.com, Website: www.lawhouse.com.mv
- The Maldives Judicial Academy (MJA) is an autonomous and separate institution within the Maldives Judiciary and under the Supreme Court of the Maldives. The Academy functions under the Regulation on Administering the Maldives Judicial Academy 2015 (MJA Regulation). The main functions of the Academy are to conduct 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.
- Maldives National University (MNU) offers Advanced Certificate, Bachelor of Shari’ah & Law and Master of Law Courses. MNU Digital Repository is called “Saruna”.
- Islamic University of Maldives (IUM) offers certificate and diploma programmes, undergraduate programmes and postgraduate programmes in Shariah and law.
- Villa College offers Master of Shariah and Law (Specialization in Criminal Law), LLB (Hons.) programmes, Bachelor of Shariah and Law programmes and Diploma in Shariah and Law programmes.
- Mandhu College offers Bachelor of Law programmes in Maldives.
- Maldives Law Institute (MLI) is an independent nonprofit non-government organization established under the Associations Act of the Maldives. MLI research and produce publication primarily on various aspects of Maldivian laws to promote and assist the development of laws and regulations in the country.
- The Maldives Law Review is published by Maldives Law Institute.
There is as such no complete database of laws of Maldives. Besides, most of the laws available online are in the national language of Maldives, Dhivehi and can be foundon the website of the Office of the Attorney General.
Some other online sources of Maldivian laws are listed below:
- Immigration Laws of Maldives
- Trade Laws of Maldives
- Banking and Finance Laws of Maldives
- Environmental Laws of Maldives
- Tax Related Laws of Maldives
- Mass Media Related Laws of Maldives
- Pension Related Laws of Maldives
- Energy Laws of Maldives
- Intellectual Property Law of Maldives [Official website of World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO]
The Maldives Ministry of Economic Development is the government body entrusted with promoting, regulating and licensing foreign investments in the country. For the ease of establishing foreign businesses in the country, the Ministry published a Foreign Investment Guide on how to invest in Maldives.
Currently, there are 19 Ministries not including the Attorney General’s Office.
- Ministry of Higher Education
- Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
- Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage
- Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology
- Ministry of National Planning and Infrastructure
- Ministry of Fisheries, Marine Resources and Agriculture
- Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Services
- Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Ministry of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment
- Ministry of Defense
- Ministry of Finance
- Ministry of Environment
- Ministry of Home Affairs
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Ministry of Islamic Affairs
- Ministry of Education
- Ministry of Tourism
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Economic Development
As per Article 93 of the Maldivian Constitution, treaties which are entered into with the foreign states and international organizations have to be approved by the People’s Majlis. The treaties will become part of the domestic laws when an enabling legislation is passed by the People’s Majlis. According to Article 115 (k) of the Constitution, it is one of the responsibilities of the President to enter into general treaties and agreements with foreign states and international organizations that do not impose any obligations on citizens without the approval of the People’s Majlis. Moerover, it is provided in Article 68 when interpreting the rights and freedoms contained in Chapter 2 of the Maldivian Constitution, the court or tribunal shall promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and shall consider international treaties to wich the Maldives is a party.
26. Some Useful Links
- Maldives Police Service
- Maldives Customs Service
- Maldives Chapter in Commonwealth
- Maldives Chapter in SAARC
- UN Maldives & UNDP Maldives
- Asia Foundation Maldives
- Transparency Maldives
- United States Department of State page on Maldives
- Maldives and the WTO
- Bilateral Relation
- Specialized Agencies of the UN and Other Organizations
- The World Bank in Maldives
- Visit Maldives