During the High Court hearing held on Monday, state prosecution changed its position on the case, to favour nullifying the 1-year 7-month prison sentence served to former Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, given the procedural violations noted.
The Criminal Court levied charges of obstructing justice against Saeed over his refusal to hand over a mobile phone to the police authorities upon his arrest following the landmark ruling issued by the Supreme Court on February 1, 2018.
In addition to Saeed, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and former Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed, who were also arrested under the same circumstances, were served a sentence of one year, seven months and six days over their refusal to hand over their mobile phones to the police. However, in both instances, the verdict was earlier nullified by the High Court.
During Saeed’s appeal hearing held at High Court this Monday, the state’s first response to the defendant’s claim that the sentence was invalid, supported the lower court ruling.
However, the judges' bench then raised question as to whether, while the sentence levied on Ali Hameed and Gayoom was nullified by the High Court, an appeal was granted by Supreme Court.'
Referring to the Gayoom case, the state responded that although an ex parte appeal was filed at the Supreme Court over procedural issues, it was rejected. The state added that the Ali Hameed case was not appealed.
When the judges then inquired why the state raised issue against Saeed, despite the lower court hearings of the three being conducted simultaneously and the bench having accepted the High Court ruling on the Ali Hameed case, the state responded that there was a delay in submitting its position.
Further shifting arguments, the prosecution stated that the state was not in agreement with the lower court’s decision and that the legal proceedings had taken place under the court’s jurisdiction.
Bench proceeded to question the state on its request that the court move for a directed verdict. The judges also raised concern over the state not seeking to either uphold or nullify the state verdict, or move to re-try or reassess the case, as is the norm for appeal cases.
Following the prosecution’s admission that procedural violations were noted in both the Ali Hameed and Gayoom cases, the bench queried on what the verdict of a questionable proceeding should be.
The state answered that, in case of procedural violations, the verdict should be nullified.
Highlighting that legal proceedings lay outside the state’s jurisdiction, prosecution asserted that the state had no interest in influencing such matters.
At the hearing, Saeed stated that, at the time the authorities demanded he surrender his phone, he was not in possession of the device. He alleged that, as the case was filed over a court order that was unanimously issued by Supreme Court’s (then) five-judge bench, there were no grounds to raise charges against him. Saeed added that the state had further failed to present any evidence against him at the lower court, in connection to accusations raised over his phone.
According to Saeed, two High Court verdicts have demonstrated that the lower court proceedings did not provide adequate time for due diligence and were unconstitutional. He added that as such, his case was no different.
Saeed added that in addition to his imprisonment, the Criminal Court's decision to suspend his licence to practise law was also unconstitutional.
Monday’s court proceedings were heard by presiding Judge Hussain Mazeed as well as Judge Ali Sameer and Judge Mohamed Faisal.
The proceedings closed with the bench’s declaration that the hearings for this case had ended.
In addition to the case concerning Saeed’s mobile phone, he was found guilty on two other charges and now faces an additional sentence of one year and six months. Saeed is currently serving his sentence under house arrest.