JSC is the right authority to investigate Chief Judge: Vice President

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed has requested the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) suspend Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed from the bench while complaints against him remain standing.

“Male’ is in crisis and many are being affected, property is being damaged,” he said during a press conference today at the President’s Office, requesting opposition parties and politicians end their political bickering and “give time” to sort out the judiciary.

Judge Mohamed was arrested on Monday, January 16 by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) following a request by police, and is being held in a military training facility on Girifushi. The Vice President this weekend expressed his discontent with the government’s detention of the judge drawing complaints from public officials.

“[I am] ashamed and totally devastated by the fact that this is happening in a government in which I am the elected the Vice President,” Dr Waheed wrote on his blog.

“Besides all the international legal obligations, the government of the Maldives is bound by the Maldives Constitution 1988 which prohibits arbitrary arrest and forced disappearance. We have just witnessed the first possible violation since the dawn of democracy in our country. I cannot understand why this is not an issue for everyone in this country,” he explained.

The European Union has also chosen to “reiterate their support for the process of democratic transition in the Maldives and note the importance of the principles underlying that transition, including respect for the constitution, due process, independence of the judiciary, the rule of law and freedom of expression are central to this process,” read a statement.

The President’s Office maintains that the arrest was made lawfully, and that constitutional reform is not a major concern. “At the moment the Constitution is not in crisis, the President is fulfilling his role as a guardian to uphold the Constitution,” said Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair.

President Nasheed yesterday urged the JSC to investigate complaints against members of the Judiciary and take due disciplinary actions, including recommendations for dismissal, as obstructions to justice are a threat to national security and public safety.

While Dr Waheed’s position came a surprise to the ruling party, he said he has “had discussions with President [Mohamed] Nasheed and expressed my views. I am very sorry if my comments have disappointed anyone,” he said, but insisted that they were “sincere and impartial”.

Judge Mohamed was last year charged with professional misconduct, and was consequently to be investigated by the JSC. However, the Civil Court ruled against the JSC’s investigation.

Minivan News asked whether this raised concern that the JSC could not be depended on to carry out a fair investigation.

“I believe the JSC is the right authority to investigate this case”, he said, indicating that suspending the judge would prevent a repeat of last year’s events, “because as you can see [keeping him on the bench during questioning] has created more disruption than we all had bargained for.”

Urging cooperative dialogue and noting that “conflict resolution is not a new thing”, Dr Waheed made three recommendations to resolve the current political crisis: release the judge, end the ongoing opposition-led protests in Male’, and require the JSC to fulfill its duties.


Court refuses whistleblower’s evidence in JSC professional negligence case

The Civil Court has refused to hear additional evidence offered by a member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) who alleges that the JSC is withholding information in the ongoing professional negligence case against it.

The Civil Court decision was based on the grounds that any information obtained by a member of the JSC in their official capacity cannot be used for any other purpose than that of executing their official duties.

JSC member Aishath Velezinee applied for leave to enter the proceedings as a third party, saying that the JSC had not made full disclosure in its submissions to the court on the professional negligence case brought against it by Treasure Island Limited earlier this month.

“Aishath Velezinee applied to enter the proceedings in her capacity as a member of the JSC and the additional information she has offered was also obtained as a member of the JSC”, Judge Nihayath said.

Referring to the JSC Code of Conduct, Judge Nihayath said, this meant Velezinee could not share the additional information with the court.

To do so would be to breach the JSC code of conduct, Judge Nihayath said, as it would mean that Velezinee was revealing the information for a purpose other than the execution of her official duties.

In reply, Velezinee said that by sharing the information with the court she would be executing her responsibilities to the nation and to the State. The duty of the JSC, she said, is to serve the people.

Judge Nihayath granted Velezinee the right to appeal, were she dissatisfied with the ruling.

Treasure Island Limited is suing the JSC for failing to execute its responsibilities by neglecting to investigate three complaints it made to the JSC in 2009, alleging professional misconduct by two judges – Judge Ali Naseer and former Interim Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy.

At the time Treasure Island made the complaints to the JSC, Justice Fahmy was the Commission’s deputy chair. He later went on to become its Commissioner before being replaced by Judge Adam Mohamed Abdulla in early September this year.

The cases in which Treasure Island alleges misconduct by the judges involve some prominent figures of the tourism industry, including the Ministry of Tourism, and a sum of money amounting to over a million US dollars.

The JSC denied the allegations of professional negligence at the first hearing on 7 October 2010, saying that the complaints made by Treasure Island Limited against the two judges were outside of its constitutional mandate.

The JSC is an independent institution with the Constitutional mandate to oversee the judiciary, investigate complaints against it, and taking disciplinary action if required.

The JSC also told Judge Nihayath at the hearing that it had the power, granted by the Constitution, to ignore any complaints that it deemed were neither valid nor genuine. The complaints made by Treasure Island Limited fell into this category, it said.

The JSC has not investigated any of the 118 complaints submitted to it this year, and the commission’s complaints committee has not met for five months.

Treasure Island refused the offer of an out of court settlement by the JSC at the hearing, saying it would prefer the court itself to make a decision on the matter.

The hearing is now scheduled for 26 October next.