The Edition


Attorney General lauds apex court's virtual hearings as "much-needed historic change"

Ahmed Aiham
20 May 2020, MVT 17:33
Attorney General (AG) Ibrahim Riffath. PHOTO: HUSSAIN WAHEED / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
20 May 2020, MVT 17:33

Attorney General (AG) Ibrahim Riffath on Tuesday, praised the Supreme Court's decision to host live virtual hearings on social media platforms Twitter and Youtube as a "much-needed historic change".

According to the state's top attorney, adopting the use of technology will save time and money. He further described the move as a measure that will not only speed up trials, but "shorten the long road to justice".

"Leaving the hubris of the courts in the past, citizens can witness hearings from near and far, and experience justice being served", tweeted the AG.

As per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the apex court can opt for virtual hearings should the court find it unfavourable to summon an individual amidst the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

While lawyers are expected to wear suit attire during these online hearings, Judges are required to wear gowns.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that most vulnerable groups, including victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence are often the most marginalized sections of the society, who have limited knowledge and means to access the justice system, especially due to Maldives' sparse geographic nature.

The decision to digitize the courts is likely to dramatically improve access to justice in a decentralized manner, especially for the most vulnerable and those based out of the capital city of Malé.

Findings from a 2014 study by the AG office entitled 'Legal and Justice Sector Baseline Study', showed that 99 percent of practising lawyers in the country were based in the Greater Male' region.

Moreover, the study found that lawyers based in Male' are "often prevented from travelling to the outer islands due to the uncertain scheduling of hearings by Male’ trial courts".

As appellate courts are situated in the capital Male', the availability of legal representation is extremely limited and expensive outside the region. Attending a court hearing often places an unfair financial burden for individuals not residing in Malé--a night's stay in the capital can roughly cost over MVR 500 (USD 33), exclusive of food.