Tensions escalate between executive and judiciary

The Judges Association of Maldives (JAM) has condemned President Mohamed Nasheed’s criticism of the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) decision on determining guidelines for the reappointment of sitting judges as “disrespectful towards the honour and dignity of judges” and indicative of the “negative view he holds of the judiciary”.

A press release issued by the association last week accuses the president of attempting to cast undue influence over the Judicial Service Commission by calling for amendments to the eligibility criteria approved last month, an act which could “render separation of powers obsolete”.

Article 285(b) of the constitution stipulates that the JSC shall determine whether or not sitting judges possess the qualification of judges specified in article 149 before August 7 2010.

The article states that judges must possess “educational qualifications, experience and recognised competence to discharge the duties and responsibilities of a judge, and must be of high moral character.”

On May 9, the JSC voted to approve as minimum standards to determine “high moral character” that judges must not have been convicted in a court of law of an offence with a punishment prescribed in the Quran, criminal breach of trust or bribery.

Following the 5-2 vote, Aishath Velezinie, President Nasheed’s member on the JSC, characterised the contentious decision as “nothing less than treason to rob the people of an honest judiciary.”

Velezinie warned that the decision could effectively give tenure to 19 judges found guilty of various offences by state institutions such as the former Anti-Corruption Board.

Two days later, the commission approved guidelines for determining educational qualifications, experience and competence.

In his radio address on May 28, President Nasheed said he believed the JSC decision could hinder the commission’s mandate of ensuring public confidence in the judiciary.

The decision was “worrying” as records showed that judges found guilty by the relevant authorities under the old constitution, or who had faced criminal prosecution and allegations of gross misconduct, were currently on the bench.

“Grade seven standard”

President Nasheed criticised the criteria for educational qualifications as setting the bar too low.

“For the standard to determine educational qualification, they are saying [judges must possess] a certificate in either law or Shariah, and even if the certificate is not accredited by the Maldives Accreditation Board, it must be a certificate of at least level three or higher accepted by the government”, he said.

Hence, he added, the minimum educational qualification for judges approved by the JSC was essentially “grade seven”.

According to the guidelines approved by the commission, said Nasheed, sitting judges would be eligible for reappointment if they have not been convicted in court of 29 criminal offences decided upon by the JSC.

The JSC also decided that sitting judges would be deemed to possess the requisite experience.

Nasheed said the criteria to determine experience and educational qualification was “inappropriate” for contemporary Maldivian society.

Moreover, taking the lack of convictions as enough to determine high moral character was “not ideal.”

An official request has been made with the JSC to review and amend the guidelines, he said.

The JSC consists of the speaker of parliament, an MP and a member of the general public appointed by parliament; a judge each from the Supreme Court, High Court and the trial courts; a practicing lawyer elected by licensed lawyers; the Chair of the Civil Service Commission; a member appointed by the president and the Attorney General.

Justice Fahmy

A statement issued by the JSC before the president’s address defended the decision as both “within the bounds of article 149” and “very fair”.

The statement signed by Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, president of the JSC, notes that differences of opinion among members only emerged over the criteria for determining high moral character.

It adds that the reappointment of judges as stipulated by article 285 was very different from the normal process of appointing or dismissing judges and magistrates.

Moreover, the commission believes the decision will “draw criticism no matter how fair it was.”

The statement goes on to condemn “efforts by certain groups to dishonour the judiciary and strip judges of their honour and dignity.”

“The commission is extremely concerned as such actions could undermine the independence of the judiciary and adversely affect society,” it reads.

While the creation of the JSC was delayed until July 26, 2009 due to “various legal problems” and its members do not work full-time, the statement assures that the commission was working “sincerely, truthfully and in line with the constitution” to fulfil its responsibilities.

“Abuse of power”

However, writing in her personal blog, Velezinie claims the statement was issued “in violation of clause 4(d) of the commission’s rules of procedure and article 163 of the constitution” as it solely represented Fahmy’s personal views.

Justice Mujthaz Fahmy had refused to either allow further discussions on the guidelines or vote on amendments, she writes.

As Fahmy was among the 19 judges with prior convictions, Velezinie claims, he faces a conflict of interest on the issue of judges’ tenure and reappointment.

Moreover, while the Supreme Court Justice was also the chair of both standing committees of the commission, the complaints committee has not been convened as of May 1.

Fahmy replaced High Court Judge Abdul Gani Mohamed as President of the JSC on February 21 when the latter was removed by a ruling from three Judges of the High Court.

Velezinie reveals that although a committee consisting of the three judges on the commission was tasked in August 2009 with formulating a draft of the guidelines for reappointment, the full committee only met once as Fahmy did not attend the second meeting.

Meanwhile, the “285 Standards Committee” formed after Gani’s expulsion and chaired by Civil Service Commission President Dr Mohamed Latheef met on three days and drafted the final guidelines during meetings that each lasted half an hour.

The sub-committee, consisting of Judges Adam Mohamed Abdullah and Abdullah Didi from the JSC as well as Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court Shuaib Hussein Zakariya and Civil Court Judge Abdullah Ali, did not consider either the previous proposals or “the purpose and spirit of the constitution and the objective of article 285.”

She adds that Fahmy’s actions were “extremely worrying” as it could cast doubt over the independence of both the JSC and the judiciary.

Moreover, Velezinie continues, failure to provide agendas and minutes of meetings to members as required by law “facilitates corruption in the commission.”

“The Judicial Service Commission, and along with it the courthouse and judges, will only gain public trust when it proves to the people with words and deeds that it is an institution that is independent from the three powers,” she entreats. “Instead of hiding behind law certificates and making decisions based on self-interest and one’s own views, [the commission has to] put national interest and public welfare first.”


22 thoughts on “Tensions escalate between executive and judiciary”

  1. Our judges are the most qualified.

    Our judges have the highest integrity.

    They never take bribes.

    They are punctual.

    No wrong verdict has ever been given.

  2. What is Valeziney's qualification to serve as member of JSC.

  3. The fact that there are "differences of opinion among members only emerged over the criteria for determining high moral character", pretty much tells it all. Why should judges be scared unless they already know that they are corrupt and they have no high moral character?

    Judges need to be careful cause there is absolutely no respect for judges in the Maldives at the moment due to their corrupt attitude and weak character. The reason why criminals are not convicted and brought to justice is because of Judges giving a blind eye and accepting bribery.

    Only way to atleast start something positive in the judiciary is to replace these corrupt judges and maybe even put the corrupt ones into prisons after a transparent investigations.

    If these judges cannot give the people justice, the people will have to remind them who they serve just as politicians needs to be reminded who elected them.

  4. I support President Nasheed 100% on this issue. It is sad that the high moral standards that he prescribes for the judiciary does not apply to the members of executive.

    - President Nasheed's political advisor Afeef was recently found guilty of defamation.

    - I hear State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Naseem was arrested during President's Nasirs rule for failing to vote in line with government instructions at the United Nations.

    - Minister of Foreign Affairs has twice been the subject of votes of no confidence at the parliament. The votes showed that Parliamentarians representing close to half of the popultation of the country do not have confidence in Dr Shaheed.

    - Mr Abdulla Shahid
    Minister of State for Housing, Transport and Environment was given a life sentence for his role in the November 3rd "mercenary attack" on the Maldives.

    The list goes on and on.

  5. Let the lack of law enforcement in this country speak for the capability of the current judges to do what is required of them! Ie, none of the sitting judges deserve to continue to be in the highly respected position of a Judge. Even if one of them had a conscience, they would've resigned by now given the sorry state the country is in now. If they were doing their job properly we wouldn't have this lawlessness in the country. President Nasheed is right in this instance....the standards need to be raised a lot higher and even the judges themselves need to be made accountable for their actions. Just because they are there to enforce the law, it doesn't mean they should be above it!

  6. As a Maldivian Citizen i would like to tell the Judges Association of Maldives that I do not have confidence in the some of the current Judges of this Country. When gangsters, drug lords and people with stolen money roam freely it is hard to praise the judiciary, especially when they get released from the courts under suspicious circumstances.

  7. The judiciary of the Maldives is simply hopeless. Within the current system there is absolutely no hope of it becoming independent and professional. People representing the courts in the JSC are alleged of corruption and those representing the parliament and the public are all sympathetic to the old regime. I support the idea of bringing foreign judges to help reform the judiciary.

  8. The Judiciary system of this country surely needs a bleeding and @Mariyam on Sat, 5th Jun 2010 8:06 PM is 100% right about it!
    Judges are not those who meet the accused or the accusers in places other than the courtroom!
    The most demanding and opposing of the so called JUDGES, who claim dignity and demand respect are frequently seen at coffee in between court sittings of ongoing cases with lawyers of the accused or the accusing!?!? Why??????
    The bottom line is, that we, must stand up to our rights, and get rid of unwanted rubbish!

  9. Mr. Fahumy Justice Fahumy, Salahudhdheen Fahumy, Fahumy Fahumy,
    Ever protected by the Maldivian Flag, even protected from the commenters of the MINIVANnews too .... Justice will be served .... Jaufaru R. is already is facing it on this earth .... Tell the bloke that theres a hereafter where the Maldivian flag does not fly .... I'd rather leave the guy alone to do more harm to the Maldivian justice so that at least he can fry himself elsewhere ....

  10. One is protected, rewarded and loved by the Judges, the Law for committing murder, drug dealing and fraud, yet one is arrested, prosecuted, imprisoned for speaking in honesty with care for Maldivian people...

  11. Judges of Maldives..total crap and highly corrupt. Gangsters let loose and on the run , drug lords released and courts demanding releasing their illegal funds, and many such others protected and long outstanding loan recovery being stopped. We can go on. So as the cheif executive of this country the president has to be concerned as he is answerable to the general public.

  12. "Tensions escalate between executive and judiciary" i would say it is a bit of an exaggeration.

  13. the judiciary needs a good bath of "Lafiluvaa".. to get rid of existing corruption.

  14. The judiciary of the Maldives is simply hopeless. Within the current system there is absolutely no hope of it becoming independent and professional. People representing the courts in the JSC are alleged of corruption and those representing the parliament and the public are all sympathetic to the old regime. I support the idea of bringing foreign judges to help reform the judiciary.

  15. it was the same judiciary through the 30 years, and crime was not as much as it is today.

    Crime has escalated ever since november 2008 and there was one major change since that month, that was the change in government.

    There has been more stabbings, violence and deaths during the past 1 and a half years than during the last 30 years, I never could have imagined the rate would be this high.

    1. if you sign for a particular party, you get a get out of jail free card.
    2. if you paint your house in a particular color you get subsidies.
    3. if you express your displeasure, you will be beaten and stabbed rather than taken to maafushi.
    4. Even though statistics from judicial administration show that 2000 people were convicted in 2009 alone, more than half of them are released under parole, the other half is lost when taken to male', the remaining will be out depending on how they vote the council elections.

  16. @ NInja - Very true...Change of leadership hard to absorb for some and hence using drug lords and gangster to terrorize the nation.Taken to police , handover to the courts and the 30yr regime loyalist release them. Be reasonable.

  17. If it's the same judiciary since 30 years ago it's high time we change it!

  18. Some house holds in Male' give birth to mostly judges. Pretty soon it becomes a family affair. Every other judge in the court happens to be a Fahkmy to find out they all come from the same family. Guess these are born judges. Yeah i guess theres something wrong here.
    The court had better install lightening protection to the Justice building before its too late.

  19. The old crooks of Maumoon's era who held high places like the island judges served well to the high-ranking officials of the regime. They serviced all needs of these people including providing women on their island visits. The old guard therefore is doing their best to keep these people in those jobs with huge salaries.

    Most of the old island judges are really dirty old men who cannot calculate simple mathematics or logic let alone deliver justice. These people are being protected by the recipients of their 'services' in the old days and there will be no justice of any sort until decent people take over as judges.

  20. Who can blame these poor old judges? They are only looking after their own interests much like Members of Parliament.

    Just another severed leg of our totally broken democracy.

  21. Democracy does not produce a good country unless ppl are able to be compassionate, reasonable and just towards one another, the rich towards the poor, one to another... so sad, what I am seeing in maldives makes me so angry and so sad because, nobody has peace and love in their souls, everyon e is filled with violence, hate, bitterness and injustice,,, so sad


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