Civil Court orders JSC to reassess the eligibility of judge dismissed for assault

The Civil Court on Sunday ordered the Judicial Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to reevaluate the qualifications and eligibility of Raa Atoll Maakurathu Court Magistrate Adnan Hussain, who was dismissed in 2010 for failing to meet the “high moral character” required of a judge.

The court issued the ruling following a suit filed by Magistrate Adnan Hussain, claiming he was disqualified unconstitutionally. He had also asked the court to order the JSC to reimburse his full salary and privileges from August 2010 until now.

During the reappointment of judges in 2010, in which all but a few sitting judges in the lower courts were given life tenure, the JSC decided to disqualify Adnan Hussain and several other judges as he had failed to meet the “high moral character” requirement stipulated in article 149, due to prior conviction for assault.

In addition to the qualifications specified in Article (a), the judge should “not [have] been convicted of an offence for which a hadd is prescribed in Islam, criminal breach of trust, or bribery”, according Article (b) section 3.

However, on Sunday the court contended that the offence of assault “does not constitutionally necessitate [his] dismissal”.

Presiding Judge Mariyam Nihaaath acknowledged that Hussain was convicted for the “least form” of assault and it was committed before his appointment to the bench in 2007. Furthermore, she observed that he had not repeated the same offence and did not have any prior criminal records, which proved that he has no intention of repeating the offence.

Moreover, as it was proven in court that judges with similar convictions were deemed eligible during the reappointment process, Nihaayath contended that Former Magistrate Hussain must be treated same those judges.

She concluded that JSC discriminated against Hussain, adding that commission had acted in a manner which violated his constitutional right to non-discrimination and equal protection before law.

“Therefore, from March 29 onward, within the next 30 days, the JSC must reevaluate Hussain’s qualifications to determine his eligibility,” she ruled.

JSC’s decision in 2010 to remove dozens of judges from the bench for contradicting moral character clause, has been previously challenged in the court.

According to the article 15 of the Judges Act – which came into effect five days after the reappointment of judges – a judge will be considered as failing to meet the required ethical and moral standards if they had served a sentence for a criminal offence in the seven years prior to the appointment.

The 2008 constitution created and mandated the JSC with bringing the judiciary in line with its new standards designed to meet the values of a functioning democracy within two years of the constitution coming into effect. The deadline expired on 7 August 2010.

Had the passage of the Act taken less time in parliament, the JSC would have been in possession of detailed guidelines on if, how and when a member of the judiciary can be removed from the bench.

Judges argued in court that the JSC deliberately decided not to wait for the legislation to be passed by the Majlis and, in fact, expedited the dismissals to suit members’ own personal opinions and political interests, while disregarding their criminal convictions.

Meanwhile, JSC’s  decision to reappoint two  judges previously removed from the bench for sexual misconduct in December 2011, prompted criticism from several lawyers – however, the JSC defended itself citing that the Judges Act allowed it as the convictions pre-dated the aforementioned seven years.