The High Court on Tuesday overturned the Criminal Court’s suspension of two senior police officers in July 2010, ruling that Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed’s decision to bar Superintendent Mohamed Jinah and Inspector Mohamed Riyaz from the court for six months was unlawful.
The pair was suspended after they appeared in court over the detention of then-opposition MPs Abdulla Yameen, Ahmed Nazim and Gasim Ibrahim on charges of bribery and treason.
The suspension for alleged contempt of court was appealed at the High Court by the Attorney General’s Office on July 21, 2010.
Police meanwhile filed a complaint against the chief judge at the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) alleging “obstruction of high-profile corruption cases.”
The JSC has however not completed an investigation of the complaint to date. The case is among 168 complaints that the commission has yet to conclude as of December 2011, according to the JSC annual report for 2011 (Dhivehi).
In January 2012, the JSC revealed that there were 11 complaints filed at the commission against Judge Abdulla Mohamed, including allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
In its judgment on Tuesday (Dhivehi) – more than two years after the case was registered – the High Court ruled that the administrative action against Jinah and Riyaz was neither procedurally fair nor in accordance with regulations on holding persons in contempt of court.
A police media official told Minivan News at the time that court had “sent a letter signed by the Chief Judge of the court to Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh. The letter did not mention any specific reason [for the suspensions], only ‘ethical grounds’.”
The High Court noted that the Criminal Court did not reply to a letter from the Maldives Police Service – sent two days after receiving the letter from the Criminal Court on July 11 informing the Police Commissioner of the suspension – seeking clarification concerning the unprecedented action.
Police had asked the court to clarify the date the hearing in question took place, the nature of the contempt allegedly exhibited by the pair or the alleged violation of ethical codes, whether it had taken place outside the hearing and whether the police officers were given any warning prior to the administrative action.
While article 43 of the constitution guarantees the right to “administrative action that is lawful, procedurally fair and expeditious,” the High Court noted that due process was not followed by the Criminal Court as the officers were not informed either of the reasons for the action or “the date of the incident”.
The High Court ruling also referred to article 68 of the constitution, which states, “When interpreting and applying the rights and freedoms contained within this Chapter, a court or tribunal shall promote the values that underlie an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom, and shall consider international treaties to which the Maldives is a party.”
“Obstruction of investigations”
Appearing on state broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) on July 17, 2010, then-Deputy Commissioner of Police Ismail Atheef explained that Jinah and Riyaz had appeared in court on July 9.
However, the letter from Chief Judge Abdullah Mohamed informing police of the suspension was received two days later on July 11.
“If someone is in contempt of the court, action has to be taken immediately according to provision five of the court regulations,” he noted.
Atheef added that the detectives were not given any warning nor had their conduct in court been noted by the journalists who were present.
“So when this letter came to us, the way police interpret it is that this is an obstruction specifically of our investigation,” he claimed.
It was the first time that police officers were suspended from the Criminal Court, Atheef said.
The former Deputy Commissioner contended that the suspension was a deliberate obstruction because Riyaz and Jinah, as the two lead detectives and top police lawyers, would have had to appear at court to seek an extension for MP Nazim’s detention.
Meanwhile, Jinah was among a number of senior officers assaulted by mutinying police inside the police headquarters before the controversial transfer of presidential power on February 7, 2012.
Following the police mutiny at the Republic Square and violent clashes with military officers, Jinah was handcuffed and taken to the Dhoonidhoo detention island.
Local media reported this week that Jinah was demoted from the rank of chief superintendent to superintendent on November 19.
Jinah was reportedly demoted over remarks he made to the media following the arrest of Gassan Maumoon, son of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
However, in June this year, the Civil Court ruled in favour of Jinah in a case filed by Gassan claiming violation of his basic rights by the superintendent. In October 2011, Gassan was arrested on suspicion of hurling a wooden block into a crowd of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) protesters outside the former president’s residence.
While the former head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED) has reportedly decided to leave the Maldives Police Service, police have said the request made last month has not yet been granted as the disciplinary board was investigating a case involving the senior officer.