New evidence bill drafted with modern changes

Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Attorney General’s Office has drafted a new evidence bill and submitted it to the President’s Office for consideration. 

The evidence law act currently in practice in Maldives was enacted back in 1976, and contains just seven clauses. 

The law highlights only two types of evidence; witness testimony and documentary evidence. However, the new bill also includes material evidence such as forensic evidence, film and photo, as well as scientific findings and results of analyses.  

The new law will have power in:  

  • Civil and criminal proceedings in all courts of law in Maldives 
  • Cases heard by all tribunals in Maldives 
  • Cases state investigative or law enforcement agencies investigate or take action in, to the extent relevant 
  • Cases investigated by state institutions with authority to take disciplinary action, to the extent relevant 

The bill also declares the process for taking witness testimony – examination stage, cross-examination stage and re-examination stage, something which is not addressed in the current law.  

In the examination stage, the witness will be questioned by the party who presented him/her as a witness. In the cross-examination stage, the witness will be questioned by the opposing counsel. And in the re-examination stage, the witness will be requestioned by the party who presented him/her as a witness. 

The bill prohibits the submission of conversations between spouses, state information prohibited from release under law, confidential information a state employee is privy to in line of duty, information that may identify a person who revealed a crime, information exchange between lawyer and client, communications with parties that provide legal counsel, and communication with journalists as evidence. 

Passage of the bill will render the evidence law currently in practice along with the women’s testimony law void. The women’s testimony law establishes that testimony of women and men should be treated equally unless in matters dictated otherwise in the Holy Quran. 

An evidence bill was drafted and sent to the Parliament back in 2017 – but was later withdrawn by the government at the time.