The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has rejected the case submitted by eight members of the High Court against Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef over his suspension of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s trial in the Hulhumale Magistrate Court.
Last Wednesday eight of the High Court’s nine-member bench filed the case claiming that the chief judge had issued the stay order without registering the case, had failed to assign a case number to the case, and had not discussed the matter with the other judges.
The judges also accused the chief judge of taking the matter into his own hands by not discussing the matter with them before issuing the order.
A spokesperson from the JSC confirmed to Minivan News at the time that the commission had received a “letter” from the eight judges regarding Judge Shareef.
A High Court official denied the allegations made by the judges, stating that the case concerning the stay order was registered at the court the previous week and that the former President’s legal team had paid the charges the following day. He also added that the order was issued after the court had received the payment.
During a meeting held on Thursday the JSC decided to not look into the case, claiming that a conflict of interest existed in the commission probing the matter, as it had appointed the three member judges panel to the Hulhumale Magistrate Court. The court is currently hearing all trials concerning the arrest of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed.
The members of the judicial watchdog also came to the conclusion that the case filed by the eight judges included issues concerning High Court procedure, which it claimed could only be looked into after the Supreme Court made a decision regarding the matter.
Six of the 10-member commission were reportedly against looking into the case while only one member was voted in favour, according to local media.
The High Court Chief Judge issued the injunction after the Hulhumale Magistrate Court rejected a request by former President Nasheed’s legal team to defer his trial until the end of the scheduled presidential elections, despite no objection from the state prosecutors.
The former president – who stands charged of unlawfully detaining the Chief Judge of Criminal Court during his last days in power in January 2012 – appealed the decision at the High Court while also contesting that the JSC had appointed the panel of judges to the magistrate court arbitrarily.
Following the appeal, the High Court granted a stay order ordering the magistrate court to halt Nasheed’s trial until it decided on the legitimacy of the panel of judges appointed to examine his case. The stay order was signed by Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef, and stated that the court was of the view that Nasheed’s ongoing trial must come to a halt until the legitimacy of the bench was established.
Following the filing of the case at the JSC against Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef, member of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s legal team Hassan Latheef has expressed his concern as to whether JSC would look into the matter impartially and transparently.
Speaking during an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally held on Wednesday evening, Latheef – who was the minister for human resources, youth and sports during Nasheed’ presidency – argued that the decision by the Chief Judge of High Court regarding the stay order was made in accordance with the High Court’s normal procedures.
Latheef claimed that based on the documents published at the high court website, out of the 15 stay orders issued in 2012 by the High Court in 2012, 10 stay orders had been signed by just one High Court judge.
“The Hulhumale Magistrate Court which is hearing the case of President Nasheed was ordered to be suspended by High Court in according to its usual practice in such cases. The case was registered at the High Court and even before there were instances were stay orders had been issued that had only one signature,” Latheef said.
Latheef also dismissed the claims that the case had not been registered at the court.
“We filed the case on March 31. The stay order was issued the afternoon of the following day, after we had even paid the charges for filing the case in the court,” he contended. “Another question is who will look into the case impartially – all the other judges have filed this case at the JSC against Chief Judge Shareef. Eight judges are on one side while the chief judge is on the other side. These are new issues which have come out of the case.”
He noted that this was the first time in Maldivian legal history where an entire panel of judges had teamed up against the chief judge following a decision on a case.
JSC under heavy scrutiny
The JSC has come under heavy scrutiny over its appointment of the panel of the judges to Hulhumale Magistrate Court to hear cases concerning the arrest of Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed – which several lawyers and members of the JSC itself have claimed exceeded the JSC’s mandate.
Among the JSC’s critics include JSC member Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman – the member appointed from among the public. Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman previously claimed the JSC had arbitrarily appointed three magistrates from courts across the Maldives to Nasheed’s case after dismissing the three names first submitted to the commission by the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court.
Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid – who is also a member of the JSC – stated that he believed that the judicial watchdog had acted unconstitutionally in assigning magistrates to a particular case.
“In deciding upon the bench, the JSC did follow its rules of procedures. As in, it was voted upon in an official meeting and six of the seven members in attendance voted on the matter. The seventh member being the chair, does not vote in matters,” Shahid explained.
Other critics included United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, who also said the appointment was carried out arbitrarily.
“Being totally technical, it seems to me that the set-up, the appointment of judges to the case, has been set up in an arbitrary manner outside the parameters laid out in the laws,” Knaul said, responding to questions from media after delivering her statement in February.