The Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has denied allegations made by opposition-aligned private broadcaster Raajje TV that it had found Criminal Court Judge Muhthaz Muhsin guilty of ethical misconduct.
Muhsin was approved as the new prosecutor general by parliament yesterday following his nomination to the vacant post by President Abdulla Yameen and sworn in at a ceremony this morning.
In a press release on Sunday (July 20), the judicial watchdog body said it had not “concluded any complaints” against Muhsin.
“[T]he news reported by Raajje.mv and Raajje TV claiming that [Muhsin] has been found guilty of ethical misconduct is false and the commission regrets with concern that such false information has been disseminated,” the press release stated.
The JSC explained that complaints against judges are scrutinised by the commission’s complaints and investigation section, which submits a report to the ten-member commission for consideration.
The commission then decides to take disciplinary action following further investigation by a subcommittee after offering a 30-day period for the accused judge to respond.
JSC Spokesperson Hassan Zaheen told Minivan News yesterday that the commission could not confirm whether a complaint had been filed against a specific judge.
The JSC provides information to the public once an investigation has been completed and a decision made regarding a complaint, he explained.
“Anyone can submit complaints about judges, even if a person did not like the way a judge was walking on the street for example,” he said.
Judges “could not live in this country” if the JSC revealed to the media when a complaint has been lodged against a judge, Zaheen suggested.
Raajje TV reported this week that an investigative report into a complaint filed against Muhsin in April 2010 was completed on May 30 this year.
The leaked report showed that a subcommittee found Muhsin had violated ethical standards by allegedly attempting to prevent a suspect arrested for theft from being held in remand detention.
Muhsin allegedly called the investigating police officer and Criminal Court judges at the behest of the suspect’s wife.
In testimony to the JSC subcommittee, the police officer allegedly said that Muhsin had called him asking whether the suspect was in police custody and had sought information regarding the case.
The television station has stood by its news report, noting that the leaked investigation report bore the JSC letterhead.
Raajje TV also noted that opposition Maldivian Democratic Party MPs who evaluated Muhsin’s nomination in the parliament oversight committee had requested that information of the complaint be sought from the JSC.
However, the pro-government majority on the independent institutions oversight committee rejected the proposal.
Meanwhile, according to local media, the case in question involved former Chief Inspector Mirfath Faiz, whose husband was arrested for stealing a mobile phone in 2010.
In a Civil Court case over her subsequent dismissal from the Maldives Police Service, the Attorney General’s Office informed the court that Faiz had called Muhsin to save her husband from being taken to the Criminal Court to have his detention extended .
The JSC is tasked by the constitution with investigating complaints and taking disciplinary action against judges.
According to the JSC’s annual report for 2013, the commission has yet to conclude investigations or make a decision regarding 106 cases, which were pending at the end of last year, including one complaint dating back to 2008 and four complaints from 2009.
Other pending cases included 13 complaints from 2010, 16 complaints from 2011, 17 complaints from 2012 and 55 complaints from 2013.
The complaints against judges involved allegations of bias, lack of integrity, behavioural misconduct, discrimination, incompetence, procedural violations, inordinate delays in concluding cases, and breach of law and the constitution.
In a comprehensive report on the Maldivian judiciary released in May 2013, UN Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, noted that there was consensus on the view that the current composition of the JSC was “inadequate and politicised”.
“Because of this politicisation, the commission has allegedly been subjected to all sorts of external influence and has consequently been unable to function properly,” she wrote.
Moreover, the lack of transparency regarding proceedings over complaints, the criteria used to initiate proceedings, and JSC decisions “nourishes serious allegations of selectivity in the management of complaints.”