Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, on Tuesday, ratified amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code which declare special judicial procedures which may be implemented national crises or when a state of national emergency is in effect.
The amendments declare situations where courts may hold virtual hearings, and procedures for virtual hearings.
The legislature was passed with a majority vote of 58 parliamentarians on June 29. One parliamentarian voted against the legislature.
President’s spokesperson Ibrahim Hood confirms the amendments were ratified by President Solih this Tuesday.
The amendments came into effect the moment it was ratified and published on the Government Gazette.
The special judicial procedures may be invoked in situations where national emergencies or crisis situations, declared by invoking a provision of the Constitution or an Act, prevent the application of the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The special procedures allow the Prosecutor General to grant an additional 60 days to investigate cases and file charges, if there is deemed to be major hindrances to investigate and file charges within the legally mandated time frame – which is 30 days – in emergency situations.
It also allows 30 days, instead of the standard 10 days, to file appeal petitions.
It also allows extensions on the time frame to file charges and issue verdicts in cases involving specific crimes.
The special procedures declares that extenuating circumstances where courts may hold virtual hearings must be declared on regulations formed under the Act, and that the Supreme Court must prepare the regulations within one month.
While virtual hearings may be permissible under certain circumstances, it will not be permissible if a suspect or defendant does not consent, or if the suspect or defendant has a neurological or psychological or psychiatric impairment.