JSC to evaluate performance of judges

The judicial oversight body, the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), is to evaluate performances of all judges at least every two years under a new regulation.

The Regulation on Evaluation of Judge’s Performance came into effect on January 1, and was made public on Tuesday.

“This regulation allows the JSC to take action against non-performing judges and also provides incentives for judges who perform well,” JSC member and opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Hamza said.

Under the regulation, the JSC is to appoint a five-member subcommittee to conduct performance appraisals of all judges. Judges will be evaluated on four criteria:  work performance, commitment to the judges’ code of conduct, attendance, and extent to which the judge’s verdicts are repealed in the appeal process.

If a judge gains between 85- 100 points, he or she will be given priority in promotions to a superior court.

However, if a judge receives below 50 points in two consecutive appraisal terms, the JSC will recommend the People’s Majlis to retire the judge or transfer the judge to another position in the judiciary.

Hamza said the regulation constituted an important step in holding judges accountable, but said the judiciary intervened regularly in the JSC’s attempts to discipline judges.

“Influential judges do not want the JSC to function. They use legal loopholes to undermine the JSC’s powers,” Hamza said, referring to the recent Supreme Court’s mandamus order halting the JSC’s decision to shuffle ten superior court judges.

Article 46 of the Judges Act allows the JSC to transfer judges between courts on the request of the Judicial Council.

However, the Supreme Court has annulled the Judicial Council and taken over the council’s powers, effectively limiting the JSC’s power to transfer or appoint any judges unless authorised by the Supreme Court.

Hamza said the People’s Majlis needed to amend judiciary related laws to limit judicial interference in the JSC.

The JSC’s record on disciplining judges has been mediocre. In 2012, a series of sex tapes which appear to show Supreme Court judge Ali Hameed fornicating with three different foreign women in a Colombo hotel room were leaked on social media.

The JSC set up an investigative subcommittee twice, but has failed to follow the subcommittee’s recommendations to suspend Hameed for failing to cooperate with the investigation.

In 2011, the JSC decided to take action against Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed for politically biased comments in the media. Abdulla Mohamed, however, requested the Civil Court invalidate the JSC’s decision, claiming the media had taken his statement out of context.

The Civil Court issued an injunction in November 2011, ordering the JSC to halt disciplinary action until the court had reached a verdict in the case. The High Court upheld the Civil Court’s injunction in April 2012.

Abdulla Mohamed retains his position as Criminal Court Chief Judge. He was among the ten judges the JSC had decided to transfer before the Supreme Court’s order.

Abdulla Mohamed was a central figure in the downfall of former President Mohamed Nasheed, following the military’s detention of the judge after the government accusations of political bias, obstruction of police, stalling cases, links with organised crime.

The Home Minister at the time described the judge’s conduct as “taking the entire criminal justice system in his fist” in order to protect key figures of the former dictatorship from human rights and corruption cases.