Parliament’s Committee for Independent Commissions has confirmed it is conducting a closed-door investigation of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), the body responsible for the appointment of judges and oversight of the judiciary.
The JSC has been both the subject of a damning report by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission into the JSC’s awarding of extraneous committee allowances.
Several judges – including Chief Judge of the Family Court Hassan Saeed – who were passed over for appointment to the High Court by the JSC have come forward to complain about issues relating to the JSC’s procedures after his appeal was dropped by the Supreme Court.
During a press conference held in parliament today, Committee Chair Mohamed Mujitaz confirmed that a sub-committee was conducting an ongoing investigation into the JSC, but said the members of the sub-committee had decided to keep the proceedings confidential.
According to Parliament’s regulations, closed door meetings can be held on issues relating to national security, law enforcement, or where a person is at risk of being defamed or perceived “as having committed a wrong.”
Minivan News understands that the three members of the Sub-Committee include Chair Ahmed Hanza, Mohamed Mujitaz and Independent MP Mohamed Nasheed. Hamza and Nasheed had not responded to Minivan News’ request for comment on the matter at time of press.
The President’s Member of the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, an outspoken whistleblower and critic of the JSC who has previously accused it of not just compromised independence but collusion with members of parliament to oust the executive, said the sub-committee had shown no interest in answering the letter of no-confidence she had sent in February 2010.
“On August 4 I sent a letter requesting an injunction order on the reappointment of judges until parliament had completed its investigation [of the JSC],” she said, adding that this too had gone unanswered.
Velezinee confirmed that JSC members had been summoned by the sub-committee, but had been informed that the questioning had related to her own conduct.
“The focus of the investigation appears to be taking action against me,” she claimed. “They’ve also asked for attendance sheets. Why is this being conducted in secret?”
“I’ve named five people – including two members on the sub-committee – as involved in this ‘silent coup’,” she said.
“The judiciary has not transformed [since the introduction of separation of powers], just transferred. The old boys [of the former administration] are trying the legitimise their return to power with a court order. Judging from the recent behaviour of the Supreme Court, it is in on it now which is utterly irresponsible and a tragedy.”
Professor Murray Kellam, a former Australian Supreme Court Justice who recently spent several weeks observing the JSC on the invitation of UNDP, pressed for transparency stating that “sunlight is the best antiseptic”.
“The process in your Constitution is that [in the event of] gross misconduct and gross incompetence, the Majlis (parliament) has the job of dismissing [the JSC], and that’s consistent with other places in the world,” he said.
“But the problem here is that the body making the recommendation is also the membership.”