The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has said that all complaints filed against judges are now being investigated, after it appealed the Civil Court’s injunction preventing the commission from taking action against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed at the High Court on Tuesday.
Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, on Tuesday told Minivan News that if the judicial watchdog “can be overruled by a judge sitting in some court somewhere, then it’s dysfunctional. But that’s what has been happening.”
In a press statement issued this week, JSC – which is mandated to appoint and investigate complaints against judges – refuted allegations that it was defunct, claiming it has been “working hard” to finish investigating complaints submitted to the commission.
Out of the 336 complaints submitted so far, 208 have been completed and 38 cases under investigation, the JSC claimed, while commission is working to finish the 128 complaints remaining. Investigation committees had been set up within the commission to “expedite the process”, JSC claims, adding that complaints concerned different judges, not only Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
The statement comes despite the JSC’s abolishing its complaints committee in May 2011. It did not clarify the outcome of any of the complaints it said it had investigated.
The JSC explained in the statement that the commission has been unable to pursue the case against Chief Judge as the Civil Court had ordered the JSC on November 17 to take no action against the judge until the court reached a verdict in the case filed against him.
The JSC requested the High Court to terminate the injunction citing that the commission’s decision cannot be overruled by the civil court.
Abdulla Mohamed filed the suit against the JSC after it completed a report into misconduct allegations against the cheif judge. According to the report, which the JSC has not yet publicly released, the judge violated the Judge’s Code of Conduct by making a politically biased statement in an interview he gave to private broadcaster DhiTV.
The injunction was first appealed by the JSC at the Supreme Court, which ordered it to be submitted to the High court on January 19 – three days after chief judge was detained by the military, after he had opened the court outside normal hours a night ago, to order the immmmediate release of Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, deputy leader of the minority opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) who was arrested after President’s Office requested an investigation into “slanderous” allegations he made that the government was working under the influence of “Jews and Christian priests” to weaken Islam in the Maldives.
In this week’s statement JSC reiterates its stance that neither police or Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) have the “constitutional authority” to detain a judge, citing that the commission reserves the right to investigate complaints about judges and submit to the parliament in case a judge has to be removed from the bench under the section 159 of the constitution and Judicial Service Commission Act.
However, the government continues to legally justify the military detention of the judge amid spiralling political tensions.
In a televised statement on MNBC One on Junary 17, Home Minister Hassan Afeef said military assistance was sought for “fear of loss of public order and safety and national security” on account of Judge Abdulla, who has “taken the entire criminal justice system in his fist”.
Afeef listed 14 cases of obstruction of police duty by Judge Abdulla, including withholding warrants for up to four days, ordering police to conduct unlawful investigations and disregarding decisions by higher courts.
Afeef accused the judge of “deliberately” holding up cases involving opposition figures, and barring media from corruption trials.
Afeef said the judge also ordered the release of suspects detained for serious crimes “without a single hearing”, and maintained “suspicious ties” with family members of convicts sentenced for dangerous crimes.
Afeef also alleged that the judge actively undermined cases against drug trafficking suspects and had allowed them opportunity to “fabricate false evidence after hearings had concluded”.
Judge Abdulla “hijacked the whole court” by deciding that he alone could issue search warrants, Afeef continued, and has arbitrarily suspended court officers.
The chief judge “twisted and interpreted laws so they could not be enforced against certain politicians” and stood accused of “accepting bribes to release convicts.”
However, opposition continues to contend that the judge’s “abduction” by the military and its refusal to release him or present him in court, despite being ordered to do so by the Supreme Court, represents a constitutional violation by the government.