The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has cleared Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yousuf of allegations of ethical misconduct and lifted his suspension after more than one year and five months.
The judicial watchdog revealed in a statement on Thursday (July 24) that the commission decided there was “insufficient concrete evidence” to prove wrongdoing following consideration of a report prepared by an investigating committee.
The JSC had suspended Bari in February 2013 pending the outcome of an investigation after a complaint was submitted the previous month.
Bari has reportedly been receiving full pay and allowances since his suspension.
Although the commission did not reveal any details regarding the complaint, local media reported that a female attorney from the Prosecutor General’s Office had alleged that Bari sexually assaulted her.
While the JSC refused to confirm the allegations at the time, JSC Spokesperson Hassan Zaheen told Minivan News last week that the commission only provides information to the media after concluding a case.
The JSC is tasked by the Constitution with investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against judges.
Judge Bari has presided over a number of high-profile cases at the Criminal Court in recent years.
In February 2010, he acquitted Adam Naseer Aboobakuru, whom the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed had labelled one of the country’s “top six” drug kingpins.
Naseer was arrested in June 2009 with over MVR6 million (US$461,500) in cash while police also found a tin containing drugs outside his house.
Judge Bari, however, ruled that the prosecution was unable to establish that the money was earned from dealing drugs and that the narcotics could have been placed outside Naseer’s house.
In 2011, Bari also ordered the release of Abdul Latheef, who was suspected of involvement with a high-profile drug cartel.
Despite initially ordering Latheef be kept in detention, the Criminal Court changed its first decision in a letter sent to the police asking for the suspect to be transferred to house arrest.
Latheef had been taken into custody with over 1,000 grams of cannabis in the trunk of his car.
Last week, the JSC denied media reports alleging that an investigating committee had found former Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin – who was appointed as the new prosecutor general on Tuesday – guilty of ethical misconduct.
Muhsin had allegedly attempted to save a suspect arrested for theft from being held in remand detention.
According to the JSC’s annual report for 2013, the commission has yet to conclude investigations or make a decision regarding 106 cases, which were pending at the end of last year, including one complaint dating back to 2008 and four complaints from 2009.
Other pending cases included 13 complaints from 2010, 16 complaints from 2011, 17 complaints from 2012, and 55 complaints from 2013.
The complaints against judges involved allegations of bias, lack of integrity, behavioural misconduct, discrimination, incompetence, procedural violations, inordinate delays in concluding cases, and breach of law and the constitution.
In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, noted that there was consensus on the view that the current composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised”.
“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” she wrote.
Moreover, a lack of transparency regarding proceedings over complaints, the criteria used to initiate proceedings, and JSC decisions “nourishes serious allegations of selectivity in the management of complaints.”