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Court orders return of a phone seized during an apartment inspection

Criminal Court has ordered police to return a phone which was seized under claims that the incorrect passcode provided posed grounds to question its ownership. The court ruled that police had defied laws and their reasoning for holding the phone is inadequate.

Aishath Shuba Solih
10 July 2024, MVT 13:23
A police officer on duty.
Aishath Shuba Solih
10 July 2024, MVT 13:23

Criminal Court has ordered the police to return a phone seized under grounds of failing to share the correct passcode.

Police had seized a phone worth MVR 28,500 along with other items from a house in Maldivian capital, Male' City during a drug related inspection. They had refused to return the phone after alleging there were grounds to question the civilian's ownership of the phone as the passcode given to unlock the phone was incorrect.

Police and prosecution had reiterated this case at the Criminal Court after the owner filed a case to retrieve the phone, stating that although the items confiscated from the apartment were returned, the phone was held back due to suspicions surrounding its ownership as the passcode given had failed to unlock it. They further added that the plaintiff must know the passcode if they own the phone.

The court ruling stated that the inventory containing items confiscated from the plaintiff's apartment of residence had also included the phone. It added that while the plaintiff maintains that the passcode was given, seizing the phone under grounds of failing to open it with the code does not serve as adequate reasoning to hold the phone.

The court noted in its ruling that the police had the option to identify the phone's owner by tracing the SIM card installed on the phone should they hold doubts over its ownership, however, they had failed to act as such. They further highlighted that no other person had filed a case to retrieve the phone as well.

The prosecution had argued that if the phone is returned without unlocking it, evidence in it may be lost and a pathway to crime might be opened. In response, the court ruling stated that a solution to the issue can only be reached after the parliament passes a resolution.

The ruling reached by Criminal Court Judge, Mohamed Misbah, therefore mandated the police to return the phone within five days as they were found to have defied the law in refusing its return.

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