The Supreme Court on Sunday affirmed the Civil Court’s 2014 decision, rejecting the claims of Abdulla Farooq Hassan and Ibrahim Rasheed Moosa to shares in ‘Haveeru’ News and its publishing arm, Loamaafaanu Print. This decision effectively overturned a previous High Court ruling that had challenged the lower court’s judgment.

The legal battle traces back to a dispute over the ownership of ‘Haveeru’, the nation’s longest-running newspaper, and related business entities. Farooq and Moosa had contended that an agreement made on 31 March 1983, involving them, ‘Haveeru’ Chairman Dr Mohamed Zahir Hussain, and Mohamed Naeem, established ‘Haveeru News Agency’ as a joint venture with equal shares. They argued that this agreement entitled them to a share of the company’s profits.

However, the Civil Court, in 2014, ruled in favour of Dr Zahir, asserting that the agreement presented by Farooq and Moosa was legally non-binding and that evidence demonstrated Dr Zahir’s sole investment and ownership of ‘Haveeru’ and Loamaafaanu Print. The court highlighted that all financial liabilities for the operation of these entities were undertaken by Dr Zahir alone, with no financial contribution or involvement from Farooq or Moosa.

The Supreme Court’s review was prompted by an appeal in 2021, after the High Court’s 2019 decision to revoke the Civil Court’s ruling. The apex court’s deliberations included an interim order to halt actions based on the High Court’s decision, leading to today’s conclusive judgment that supports Dr Zahir’s sole ownership.

The Supreme Court criticized the High Court for neglecting to consider the actual ownership of ‘Haveeru News Agency’s assets. It further clarified that Rasheed Moosa’s managerial role at ‘Haveeru’ did not equate to ownership rights. The court emphasized that the legal formation of an entity is contingent upon fulfilling specific legal procedures, which were not met in the establishment of ‘Haveeru News Agency’ under the disputed agreement.

This ruling underscores the importance of legal formalities in business agreements and the protection of established ownership rights. It also marks the end of a prolonged legal dispute over the ownership of a pivotal media institution in Maldives.

‘Haveeru’, which commenced publication on 1 January 1979, had become a staple in Maldivian journalism, offering extensive news coverage through both its print and online platforms. The newspaper’s operations were suspended on 31 March 2017, following an interim order amidst the ongoing legal battle, concluding 37 years of continuous service to the Maldivian public.