Two senior judges have accused the Supreme Court of violating due process and rules of procedure by unfairly dismissing a case challenging the legitimacy of the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) selection and appointment of judges to the High Court.
Five judges were sworn in to the High Court bench by the JSC last night after the Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a case filed by Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf at the Civil Court claiming to show procedural and legal issues in the JSC vetting process. Bari’s case was later entered into by Family Court Chief Judge Hassan Saeed as a third party.
On January 20 – three days before the judges were due to be sworn in – the Civil Court issued a temporary staying order halting the appointments by the JSC pending a final ruling.
The Supreme Court however transferred the case from the lower court a day later and conducted two hearings before dismissing it without issuing a verdict on Thursday (March 24) after neither Bari nor Saeed reportedly appeared at court.
The Supreme Court had announced on January 21 that it was taking over the case as it involved “a matter of public interest”.
Judge Bari, who was himself among the candidates for the High Court, however insists that section 23 of the Supreme Court regulations – which requires claimants to inform the court prior to leaving the country or face dismissal of their case – does not apply to him as he had filed the case at the Civil Court.
The Criminal Court judge claims that he had also informed the senior registrar of the Supreme Court of his departure on a personal trip. In an apparent violation of standard procedure, chits were reportedly sent out to the involved parties two hours before Thursday’s hearing began.
Moreover, under section 75(c) of the Supreme Court regulations, the court must give a maximum period of seven days for the claimant to file the case again. However, the JSC – chaired by Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla – decided to hold the swearing-in ceremony on Saturday night, effectively preempting Bari from filing the case again.
In a letter sent to President Mohamed Nasheed today, Chief Judge Hassan Saaed writes that “that the case was dismissed in violation of legal principles and procedures came as a shock to the judiciary.”
Saeed added that as a result of the incident, “the growing confidence that I and ordinary citizens had in the judiciary is lost,” urging the President to “stop this process continuing unlawfully.”