Judicial watchdog reprimands judge over blogpost

Judicial watchdog reprimands judge over blogpost
October 22 14:32 2015

The judicial watchdog has reprimanded Drug Court Judge Mahaz Ali Zahir over a blogpost critical of a Supreme Court ruling.

An investigative committee of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) found Mahaz guilty of unethical conduct and issued a warning yesterday. 

Mahaz had argued in a blogpost in May 2014 that the state could not press criminal charges in the absence of a prosecutor general (PG) and his deputy. But the apex court and the attorney general had said the most senior prosecutor could take on the PG’s constitutional responsibilities.

Mahaz told The Maldives Independent that he published the blogpost on May 8, but the JSC accused him of criticising a Supreme Court ruling issued on May 12.

“I couldn’t have possibly written against the Supreme Court order of May 12. I don’t understand this at all. They have deliberately punished me for something I did not do,” he said.

Mahaz said he does not feel threatened by the JSC’s disciplinary action and vowed to continue writing academic articles on legal issues.

“I have the right to write. The Judges Act doesn’t prohibit me from writing. This does not threaten me at all and I don’t regret writing that post,” he said.

Article 41(a) of the Judges Act states that judges may publish essays and academic articles as long as it does not politically benefit a party.

JSC spokesperson Hassan Zaheen declined to comment on the issue.

Mahaz has published three books and written numerous articles for the Maldives Law Review.

His first book “106 questions and answers on Drug Court” was published in early 2014, followed by “A guide to the Drug Act” in the same year. His third book, “10 steps to memorise the Holy Quran,” was published this year. A fourth book called “The Witness” is due to be published in 2016.

Mahaz also examines contentious legal issues on his personal blog. The offending blogpost was written amidst a crisis in the criminal justice system.

In May 2014, state prosecutors went on strike after the resignation of Deputy PG Hussain Shameem, forcing the criminal court to cancel trials for a week. Shameem was in charge after the former PG, Ahmed Muiz, resigned in late 2013 ahead of a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The prosecutors needed a document signed by either the PG or his deputy authorising them to represent the state. But the Supreme Court ordered prosecutors to return to work “without any further excuse” to ensure that the criminal justice system continues to function.