High Court has scheduled a hearing for the case submitted to strike down the first amendment to the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act.
The initial hearing for the case will be held on November 28, 2022. The case was submitted to the court on May 23, 2022.
The petition was filed Ahmed Azan, Ahmed Ibrahim, and Shifzan Ahmed of Dhiyares news, TMJ’s parent paper. They will be represented in Court by Ahmed Shaffan Mohammed, a young Oxford-educated lawyer. Lawyer Shaffan is presently studying for his PhD from the same University.
The case states that presently, the amendment requires that demonstrations take place only with written permission from Maldives Police Service (MPS) or in areas designated by Ministry of Home Affairs. It adds that any right granted under the Constitution, can be restricted by a Parliament motion, only to the amount that is restricted in other democratic states. It also adds that courts have to refer to the level of restriction and the way of restriction, when looking at if the restriction aligns with the Constitution.
The case is being heard by a bench of 5 justices. They are:
- Dheebanaaz Fahmee (Chair)
- Mohamed Saleem
- Shuaib Hussain Zakariya
- Mohamed Faisal
- Hassan Shafeeu
According to the high court, the delay in scheduling a hearing in the case was due to the long leave of absense taken by Judge Shuaib Hussain Zakariya because of illness.
The article added to the 2013 Freedom of Peaceful Assembly Act in 2016 stated that to assemble and protest in any areas of Male’City, the protestors must have a written permit from Maldives Police, and it must take place only at locations approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The article tasked the ministry to draft a list of locations approved for assembly.
The case appealed at high court argues that limiting protests to a certain area specified by law enforcement limited the right to protest which was unbecoming of a democratic society. Moreover, it said that seeking permission in writing prior to protests completely negates the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protests.
The nullification of this amended article was a presidential vow of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. However, he has not submitted to the parliament to annul the article. Furthermore, Home Minister Imran Abdulla has advocated at the Parliament’s Judciary Committee on the importance of keeping the amendment as is.