A group of lawyers have questioned the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)’s decision to reappoint two judges, previously removed from the bench for sexual misconduct, as magistrate court judges.
The lawyers, including Former Attorney General Husnu Suood, said on Thursday that Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo, Meeraaz Ahmed Shareef and Dhaalu Meedhoo Biloori Villa, Ali Shafeeg who were appointed as magistrate court judges had previously been convicted for sexual misconduct.
Speaking to Minivan News, Suood said the two judges were removed from bench in 2010 because they did not possess the “high moral character” required to be a judge according to the article 149 (a) of the amended constitution.
According to the records, Shareef – appointed to Gaafu Alifu Dhevadhoo Court – was sentenced to two months under house arrest on July 30 2001, for having an affair. He was former Chief Magistrate of Thinadhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll.
Ali Shafeeg, appointed to Kaafu Gaafaru Magistrate Court, was sentenced to four months banishment and subjected to seven lashes in 1989, for having an affair with a married woman.
Suood noted that, article 149 (a) of the amended constitution states “a person appointed as a Judge in accordance with law, must possess the educational qualifications, experience and recognized competence necessary to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a Judge, and must be of high moral character”.
Referring to the previous convictions of the Judges, Suood said that the “two judges were not up to the moral standards required and that’s why they were disqualified in 2010”.
“We are preparing the documents to submit to JSC requesting them to investigate the case. It’s up to the JSC to hold the integrity of the judiciary,” he said.
JSC spokesperson Hassan Zaheen noted that Shareef and Shafeeg were also removed in 2010, under the article 285, which allowed JSC to dismiss judge failing to meet the requirements in article 149.
However, he added, that Shareef and Shafeeg were reappointed “because the Judges Act now allows it.”
According to the article 15 of the Judges Act – which came into effect five days after the reappointment of judges with life time tenure – a judge will be considered as failing to meet the required ethical and moral standards if they had served a sentence for a criminal offence in the seven years prior to the appointment.
“Shareef and Shafeeg were sentenced before the seven year period,” Zaheen added.
In 2010 when Shareef was dismissed from the bench, he also protested against the JSC in court, claiming his conviction was 11 years old when he was removed from the bench on August 5, 2010, and his sentence had been suspended. The Judges Act was being debated in the parliament at the time of Shareef’s removal.
Therefore, JSC pointed out at the time, the Judges Act post-dated its decision to remove Shareef from the bench, and argued that it could not be expected to rely on legislation that did not exist.
The JSC reiterated that he was removed from bench under the article 285, that allowed JSC to dismiss the judges failing to meet the moral and ethical requirements of article 149.