Justice is meted out according to traditional Islamic law (Shari'ah) by the high court and lower courts appointed for that purpose by the president and functioning under the Ministry of Justice. Civil law is also applied but remains subordinate to Shari'ah. Judges must be Muslims.
On the capital island, Malé, there is a high court which hears a range of cases as a court of first instance and also serves as a court of appeal. Lower courts each deal with a specific area such as theft, property or family law issues. The 1995 presidential decree gives power to a five-member advisory council appointed by the president to review the high court's decisions. The president also has authority to affirm judgments of the high court, to order a second hearing, or to overturn the court's decision.
On the other islands, there is one all-purpose lower court in which cases are often adjudicated by traditional legal practitioners. Complex cases are referred to the appropriate specialized court in Malé. There are 204 general courts on the islands.
In criminal cases there is no jury trial. The accused may call witness and may be assisted by a lawyer. There are, however, few professionally trained lawyers in Maldives, and the court does not provide a lawyer to an indigent defendant. The judiciary is subject to executive influence. The president may grant pardons and amnesties.