The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has appointed a special three-member team to decide on the best course of action against JSC member Aishath Velezinee, for removing official documents from the Commission’s premises.
The JSC, which is yet to adopt a Standards of Procedure a year after the 26 January 2010 deadline, earlier this month passed new secrecy regulations that make it an offence for members to reveal any Commission business to the public without prior authorisation.
The regulations were passed at a meeting on 17 January at which Velezinee was not present, and the agenda of which, seen by Minivan News, did not indicate any plans or proposals for new secrecy restrictions.
On 24 January, days after passing the new regulations, the JSC set up a special committee comprising Vice Chair Afraasheem Ali, Member Abdullahi Didi, and Deputy Legal Representative Abdul Faththah to discuss how best to apply the new regulations against Velezinee, who it alleges removed a documents file from the presmises on that day.
It is the first time in the history of the new democratic government that a member of an independent Commission, set up by the 2008 Constitution, is being subjected to an internal investigation.
The unprecedented move by JSC is made all the more surprising by the inclusion among the three special investigators a member of the Commission’s staff.
It is rare, if not unknown, for a junior staff member to be placed in a position of deciding disciplinary action against a state official they have been appointed to serve.
Velezinee, an outspoken critic of the JSC’s refusal to adopt a Standards of Procedure as required by the Constitution, earlier this month accused several fellow members of corruption and treason.
She has published a large cache of JSC documents, including audio recordings of Commission meetings, on her personal website as evidence, she says, to support her accusations.
Velezinee also runs a Facebook page dedicated to Article 285 of the Constitution, which regularly carries electronic copies of various official documents from the Commission.
She maintains that the JSC, unlike other independent Commissions set up by the Constitution, should conduct its business publicly. She has lobbied for media access to JSC meetings, a proposal that has not met with unanimous support from other members.
She has also called for an open inquiry into her allegations against the JSC, and has repeatedly challenged Commission Member Abdulla Shahid to respond to her charges of treason against him.
According to Velezinee, Shahid, also Speaker of the Majlis, while straddling two of the democracy’s three separated powers, is gradually executing plans – through the JSC and the Majlis – to take over the third.
Shahid, who has defended himself in the media against other allegations of corruption such as those related to the privatisation of Male’ International Airport, has remained silent on the charges made by Velezinee.
Speaker Shahid is currently travelling the country on a political campaign with opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) leader MP Ahmed Thasmeen Ali, and could not be contacted for comment.
Notably, the JSC’s investigation into Velezinee’s decision to remove Commission documents does not make any reference to her publication of JSC internal documents on the internet.
If the JSC were to refer to Velezinee’s publication of the documents, it would be forced to acknowledge her accusations against Speaker Shahid, and itself.
According to a JSC internal memo, also made public by Velezinee, the three investigators will focus their deliberations on what course of action to take against her for removing the documents.
What an offending member does with the documents is not up for regulation or deliberation, as of yet.
Meanwhile, as the JSC considers disciplinary action against one of its own for retrospective infringement of newly-passed secrecy regulations, the Anti Corruption Commission and the police are investigating the JSC.
It is also currently facing allegations of bias in its recent High Court appointments made by two failed candidates, a Civil Court judge and a Family Court judge.
The case is now at the Supreme Court. JSC Chair Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, who is on the Supreme Court bench, is yet to recuse himself from the case despite the possibility of a conflict of interest.
This is the second time in less than six months that the JSC has had to face allegations of bias in a court of law. Earlier this month, the Civil Court threw out a professional negligence case against the JSC where it stood accused of not performing its Constitutional duty to investigate judiciary misconduct.
Judge Mariyam Nihayath dismissed the case on a technicality – slovenly time keeping by the plaintiff – but not before the JSC admitted it did not have a standard system in place for dealing with complaints of judicial misconduct.
It also became known during the hearings that the JSC received and failed to investigate over 100 complaints received last year.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) visited Male’ on a fact finding mission related to the independence of the country’s judiciary last year. Although the mission was reported as having been completed in September last, its findings are yet to be made public.