The Chair of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) deserted an emergency meeting of the JSC Thursday night, refusing to meet members’ demands for adoption of the Commission’s House Rules as a matter of high priority.
The JSC’s deadline for adopting House Rules, as stipulated in Article 40 of the Judicial Service Commission Act, expired ten months ago on 26 January of this year.
Without House Rules, the Commission’s work has no set standards of procedure according to which to carry out its responsibilities, allowing for Commission business to be conducted on an ad hoc basis, and according to the discretion of the Chair himself.
JSC is the independent body Constitutionally mandated with oversight of the country’s judiciary. It is responsible for maintaining the standards, principles, ethics and discipline of members of the judiciary.
Chair of the JSC Supreme Court Justice Adam Abdulla convened Thursday’s emergency meeting, which he later deserted, to discuss the impending departure of three Chief Judges who are travelling abroad to finesse their English Language skills.
The JSC is required to appoint substitute Chief Judges to replace any that leave their post on a temporary or permanent basis.
Four members of the JSC, however, refused to discuss the substitutes’ appointments unless Justice Abdulla acceded to their requests to put House Rules adoption at the top of the Commission’s agenda when it meets later today.
Justice Abdulla refused the demand of the dissenting members who included the Attorney General Ali Sawad, JSC Lawyer Ahmed Rasheed, Member of the General Public, and President’s Member Aishath Velezinee. He chose to abandon the meeting instead.
Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdullah Didi, one of the three judges scheduled to travel to India yesterday to brush up their English Language skills, joined Justice Abdulla in the walkout.
In a leaked audio recording of Thursday’s meeting listened to by Minivan, Chief Judge Didi is heard urging Justice Abdulla to leave saying, “Let’s go. Nothing can be done in this place. Let’s leave, Adam”.
The two men then walked out of the meeting. Both the matter of the House Rules and the matter of appointing substitute judges to stand in for those taking English lessons remain yet to be addressed.
Minivan has learned this morning that Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed remained in Male’, foregoing the English language training after the JSC’s failure to appoint his substitute.
The two jurisdictions without a magistrate, however, could remain a legal limbo until the JSC appoints substitutes.
Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed is one of the six judges under official investigation by the JSC for alleged misconduct
So far the Investigating Committee of the JSC appointed to look into allegations against Judge Didi has spent over a Rf100,000 solely on reimbursing its members for their attendance. The Investigating Committee, too, is yet to adopt any House Rules.
Before deserting the meeting Justice Abdulla told the dissenting members of the Commission that nobody had the authority to impose conditions on him, as stated in a press release issued by the JSC on Thursday night.
JSC regulations state that any matter which the Commission, or any member of the Commission, wishes to include in the agenda of its meeting should be duly included in the agenda.
When contacted by the media subsequent to the JSC press release, Justice Abdulla said he walked out because he could not tolerate what he described as “the vulgar behaviour of Velezinee”.
Justice Abdullah did not mention that three members of the JSC other than Velezinee, including the Attorney General, had joined together in demanding the adoption of House Rules as a matter of urgency.
Placing the blame squarely on Velezinee’s behaviour, he told the media she had “belittled the importance of the meeting” and accused her of being a disruptive force in the Commission’s work.
“Yes, I do try and disrupt the ‘work’ that they do”, Velezinee said. “They are not carrying out the responsibilities as required by the Constitution. It is my duty, and the obligation of every member of the JSC, to ensure that the JSC performs its proper functions.”
Velezinee said certain members of the JSC appear to have a false perception of the Commission as “a welfare organisation for members of the judiciary with the oversight to ensure their individual and collective well being”.
Justice Abdulla’s claims that Velezinee’s behaviour forced him to leave the proceedings contradict the press release by JSC, and also the proceedings as heard in the leaked audiotape.
When referred to the the JSC press release, which had been issued after his desertion and of which he was not aware until contacted by the media, Justice Abdulla told Haveeru that it was not a valid document as it had been issued without a required approval of the majority.
After the recent controversy over Article 285 of the Constitution and the re-assembling of JSC at the end of August, however, JSC had approved three senior Secretariat staff as media spokespersons with the authority to brief the media.
Dismissing Justice Abdulla’s claims as a frequently used strategy of “character assassination to deflect attention from the JSC’s sustained negligence of its Constitutional responsibilities”, Velezinee listed a variety of issues deliberately left out of the JSC agenda.
“Adopting the House Rules and other regulations required of the Commission under the JSC Act, appointing Justices to the High Court, and appointing a Secretary General to JSC”, she said, are vitally important issues that are yet to receive any attention.
Velezinee said that without House Rules the JSC has not been able to perform some of its chief responsibilities such as preventing impunity among judges and building public confidence in the judiciary.
The Complaints Commission of the JSC, mandated to examine complaints against members of the Judiciary, for instance, has met only once in the last five months despite having over a hundred complaints awaiting its examination.
To date JSC has not settled a single complaint it has received regarding the conduct of a judge.
Minivan has also learnt that Judge Abdulla ignored requests by the US Embassy and Commonwealth delegations to meet with the Commission, and failed to inform Commission members of such requests.
The 10-member JSC voted Justice Abdulla as Chair with five votes, while waiting to decide whether or not to investigate his involvement in the High Court Declaration of 21 January 2010.
The Declaration removed High Court Chief Justice Abdul Ghani from JSC accusing him of misconduct and installed Justice Abdulla as head of JSC.
Meanwhile, Justice Abdulla moved up to the Supreme Court, vacating the High Court seat in the JSC. To the seat was returned Chief Justice Abdul Ghani, who had been removed from the JSC by the High Court Declaration only months previously.
The allegations of misconduct against Chief Justice Abdul Ghani have not come to the fore since his re-instalment at the JSC.
A report of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) is due out soon, revealing the findings of its visit to the Maldives last month. The ICJ delegation was lead by former UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Dr Leandor Despuoy.