The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has lifted its indefinite suspension of the magistrate of Villingili Court in Gaaf Alif Atoll, almost four years since his suspension over alleged corruption.
According to local media, Magistrate Hassan Najeeb was indefinitely suspended in November 2009 after he was prosecuted for embezzlement of state funds.
Najeeb had allegedly approved payments for a set of bills submitted by three people for ferry trips between Villingili Island and Dhevvadhoo Island, which later turned out to be fake.
The JSC claimed on Sunday that the suspension was lifted after the High Court upheld the not-guilty verdict issued by the Criminal Court. It also claimed that the Prosecutor General had decided not to appeal the High Court decision in the Supreme Court.
Currently, Chief Judge of the High Court Ahmed Shareef and Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baari Yusuf are serving indefinite suspensions issued by the state’s judicial watchdog.
Chief Judge Shareef was indefinitely suspended over a complaint filed against him a year ago. The suspension coincided with the Chief Judge’s decision to temporarily suspend the appeal case of former President Mohamed Nasheed – who is currently campaigning for re-election as the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s presidential candidate.
JSC Chair and Supreme Court Justice Adam Mohamed in a press conference held to announce that decision claimed the suspension was a “precautionary” measure while investigation of the complaint was proceeding.
“There are no legal grounds to stop looking into a complaint submitted [to the commission] or halt proceedings,” he said at the time.
The Chief Judge’s legal team subsequently challenged the JSC’s decision in the Civil Court, claiming that the decision contrasted with existing laws and had undermined the independence that a judge required in executing his legal duties.
Chief Judge Shareef’s lawyer Husnu Al Suood – who is currently the President of Maldives Bar Association and a former Attorney General – also pleaded the court to issue an injunction halting his suspension.
The Civil Court gave the injunction on July 11, ordering the JSC not to take any action against the suspended Chief Judge until it decided on the legality of his suspension.
Criminal Court Judge Abdul Baari Yusuf was meanwhile suspended by the JSC in February following a case filed by a female lawyer from the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office, who alleged Baari Yoosuf had sexually assaulted her.
More recently, the JSC decided not to suspend Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, who is currently under both police and JSC investigation following the circulation of sex videos apparently depicting the judge fornicating with unidentified foreign women.
Four members of the JSC voted in support of a motion to not suspend the Supreme Court Justice, due to “lack of evidence”.
Then JSC members including Gasim Ibrahim – the presidential candidate of the Jumhoree Party (JP) – and Attorney General Azima Shukoor raised doubts over the accuracy of the claims, in which Gasim contended that the sex-tape was “fake” while Shukoor maintained the case “needed more details”.
Following the inconsistencies within the JSC, commission member Shuaib Abdul Rahmaan alleged the JSC was discriminating between lower court judges and higher court judges and blasted the commission’s lack of consistency.
The country’s judiciary is currently being subjected to questions over its lack of impartiality and failure to deliver justice. A substantial amount of criticism is being levied against the JSC, which is mandated to oversee the functioning of the judiciary.
Several international experts and organisations including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) have expressed concern over the state of the judiciary and the JSC.
In February 2011, the ICJ claimed that the Maldives legal system is failing to serve its citizens despite many “positive developments” that have been made in an effort to de-politicise the courts, with many judges found to be lacking qualifications and independence.
Former director of the ICJ’s Asia Pacific operation’s Roger Normand at the time said he did not believe that the Maldives had an “independent judiciary capable of resolving problems”.
A similar report by Professor Paul H Robinson observed that “persons with little or no legal training can hardly be expected to know how to conduct a fair and effective trial.”
“Serious efforts must be made to provide substantial training to current judges in order to insure that all have the background they need in both law and Sharia. Perhaps more importantly, no judge should be hired who does not already have the needed training,” he wrote.