The Judicial Services Commission (JSC)’s request that the High Court expedite a case concerning the legitimacy of the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court bench overhearing the trial of former President Mohamed Nasheed is an attempt to unduly influence the court, JSC member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman has stated.
“As I see it, a letter like this can only be sent after seeking counsel of commission members in a formal meeting,” Sheikh Rahman said, referring to the request sent by the JSC to the High Court on Sunday.
“However, I only heard about this letter in the media. The next day, I raised the issue at the commission’s meeting, and that is when they finally showed it to me,” he said.
“The letter was signed by the Vice Chair of the JSC [Criminal Court Judge] Abdulla Didi. Abdulla Didi would not send such a letter of his accord. I believe that what has happened here is that he has sent this letter under the orders of JSC Chair [Supreme Court Judge] Adam Mohamed,” he said.
Sheikh Rahman added that the JSC’s Chair was only granted authority to autonomously answer letters concerning administrative matters.
“This letter, however, is certainly not to do with an administrative issue, nor is it a response to a letter. They have taken the initiative and sent a letter to a court concerning an ongoing case, speaking of the case outside of court proceedings. There are already lawyers appointed for this. Such decisions must be made in commission meetings,” he stated.
“I believe that whoever advised for this letter to be sent has done so with the intention of influencing Nasheed’s case to be concluded in a particular way,” Sheikh Rahman declared.
“The JSC, even prior to the sending of this letter, is looking into a number of complaints against the Chief Judge of the High Court and some concerning him or other judges of that same court. The fact is that the JSC has the mandate to appoint or remove the High Court Chief Judge, therefore it is very likely going to exert pressure and influence when this oversight committee sends such a letter,” Sheikh Rahman explained.
The case in question is one filed by the defense counsel of former President Mohamed Nasheed, challenging the legitimacy of the three member bench appointed by the JSC to the case against him for the arbitrary detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed.
Nasheed and his party contend the case is a politically-motivated attempt to convict and prevent him contesting the presidential elections in September.
Lawyers representing the JSC previously requested the High Court dismiss the case, contending the court did not have the jurisdiction to preside on the matter.
Upon accepting the case, the High Court issued a stay order on Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court to suspend all criminal trials concerning the arrest of the judge, until a ruling on the legitimacy of the court’s bench is issued.
“Far more concerning cases”
Sheikh Rahman stated that there were other “far more concerning cases” pending in the country’s courts, which the JSC had not sought to expedite.
“There is a case concerning matters relating to the appointment of judges to the superior courts. The JSC has then appealed it at the Supreme Court. This case has been pending for over an year. Within this period, the JSC has sent only two letters regarding the matter,” Sheikh Rahman said.
“The appointment of judges to the superior courts is at a standstill until a verdict is reached on this case. This is a far more pressing matter.”
Not the first time such a letter is sent: JSC
JSC Media Official Hassan Zaheen initially declined from commenting on the issues raised by Sheikh Rahman.
“Shuaib is a member, right? Now when a member has said something, I do not know what to say with regard to that. As I have told media before, this is not the first time we have sent such a letter. I don’t know what has to be said.”
Approached for comments, JSC Vice Chair Abdulla Didi requested that Minivan News contact the JSC’s media official instead.
When informed that the media official had declined from commenting on the matter, Abdulla Didi stated that as media officer, Zaheen was mandated to respond to media.
“Just this week we decided in a commission meeting that Zaheen will answer all media queries regarding this matter, under the counsel of JSC Chair or myself. If he asks me for counsel, I will definitely not stop him from providing explanations. However, I am not the media person, so I do not want to comment on the matter to any media,” Didi said.
Under counsel from the Vice Chair, Zaheen later responded to Sheikh Rahman’s statements.
“I don’t know what Shuaib means by that. We [JSC] believe this is an administrative step taken in order to carry out our work in a more timely manner. The law says the chair, as the highest authority, can take administrative decisions,” he stated.
“It does not matter to us whether the case has to do with [former President Mohamed] Nasheed or whoever. As respondents, we have the right to make this request,” he continued.
“Remember the case of Abdulla Ghazi [Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed]? When there was a case concerning him in Civil Court, this commission sent a letter asking it to be expedited. Even that letter was sent as an administrative letter under the Chair’s orders, not after a decision made in a commission meeting,” Zaheen explained.
Regarding the allegation that the letter may have exerted undue influence, Zaheen replied, “I do not believe that any influence will be exerted. JSC will look into disciplinary measures of any judges, as it is our mandate. That does not mean that we can’t send a letter when a case concerning us in being tried in one of these courts. Who else will come to raise that point? If, as you all claim, there is a conflict of interest, then there are policies the JSC has shared with the judges on how they can abstain from such cases. I trust the judges will do so if need be.”