SC reshuffled in one night; Impeachment, retirement, first female senior judge

Supreme Judge Esmeralda Zahir; Judge Esmeralda was appointed as the chief judge of the Supreme Court by the JSC on November 20, 2019, making her the first female judge to be appointed to the role. (Photo/President's Office)

In one night, the highest court in the Maldives has seen some major changes. This included the suspension of one of its judges with impeachment proceedings looming over the horizon, the retirement of the senior judge of the court and the first time a female judge was appointed as the court’s senior judge.

Judge Areef retires from the bench after more than a decade

The chief judge of the Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Areef announced his retirement last night. The long-serving judge cited medical issues as the reason for his retirement. The judge had also recently resigned from his post as the President of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

Judge Areef’s retirement comes at a time when the JSC is investigation 14 disciplinary and ethics cases against the judge.

Judge Areef served as the senior judge on the Supreme Court bench on a temporary basis following the suspension and impeachment of the Chief Justice earlier this month. 

Judge Areef (51 yrs) was first appointed to the Supreme Court bench on September 18, 2008. Judge Areef is a graduate of prestigious Medina Islamic University and previously served in the Criminal Court from 1998 to 2008.

Judge Abdulla Areef; Judge Areef announced his retirement from the Supreme Court for health reasons on November 20, 2019. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

One of the two recently appointed female judges to the Supreme Court, Judge Esmeralda Zahir was elevated as the senior judge of the court after the retirement of Judge Areef last night.

The Judicial Service Commission decided to appoint Judge Esmeralda as the senior judge in a meeting last night. Judge Esmeralda is a graduate of the University of Cardiff, Wales and the University of Portsmouth, England. She gained her Ph.D. in intellectual property law from the University of Exeter.

Judge Esmeralda has previously worked in the Maldivian Law Commission, Maldives College of Higher Education, and in the Maldives National University, where she served as the dean of the Faculty of Shariah and Law.

Judge Esmeralda was appointed as a High Court Judge in 2011, becoming the first and only woman to serve as a judge in the High Court of Maldives before the landamark appointment of her and Judge Shujoon to the Supreme Court as the first female judges on the Supreme Court..

Supreme Court judge Abdul Ghani Mohamed: The ACC commenced an ethics investigation into Judge Ghani in November of 2019. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Impeachment of Judge Ghani on the horizon

The JSC has decided to suspend Supreme Court Judge Abdul Ghani Mohamed for 60 days and propose his impeachment to the Parliament.

The JSC’s decision comes at a time when it is investigating several disciplinary and ethics cases of Judge Ghani. The Anti-Corruption Commission is also investigating a case against Judge Ghani separately.