Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi refused to accept a summons on Monday night to appear for questioning by the Judicial Service Commission over alleged ethical misconduct.
A JSC employee tried to hand over the document and showed his identity card but “the chief justice refused to accept the notice, went inside and shut the door,” the watchdog said in a statement issued after a Supreme Court official told some media outlets that an unknown person tried to enter Didi’s residence.
A Supreme Court justice who lives in Didi’s building accepted a notice from the JSC staff, the watchdog noted.
The chief justice has been at loggerheads with the oversight body since its majority tilted in the wake of presidential and parliamentary elections. Along with a lawyer elected by licensed practitioners, the 10-member commission is comprised of three representatives each from the executive, legislature and judiciary.
With its landslide victory in April’s parliamentary elections, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party also secured well above the two-thirds majority needed to remove judges and went on to sack former justice Abdulla Didi from the Supreme Court bench.
On Tuesday, the JSC revealed that it has looked into about 200 complaints against judges since September 3, including alleged corruption, sexual harassment and undue influence.
These included 18 complaints against Chief Justice Didi, 16 complaints against Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla, 14 complaints against Justice Abdulla Areef and three complaints against Justice Abdul Ghanee Mohamed.
In October, a probe was launched against the four justices after a report flagged 17 instances where the Supreme Court violated the constitution or usurped the powers of the executive, parliament, lower courts and independent state institutions. But the chief justice contended that the JSC could only investigate complaints of ethical misconduct as the constitution does not allow a “non-judicial procedure” to review or consider the legitimacy, legality or constitutionality of court decisions.
According to local media, the chief justice refused to accept an investigation report sent by the watchdog last week. The JSC law requires it to grant a 30-day period for judges to respond to findings of ethics probes. But the chief justice reportedly informed the commission that its probe was unlawful as it lacked the constitutional authority to challenge the apex court’s judgments.
In its statement on Tuesday, the JSC denied investigating complaints “on the basis of merit of judgment reached by the judge” and insisted that the probe was about violations of the code of conduct for judges.
The JSC also accused Didi of “continuous resistance” to amendments made by parliament to the Judicial Service Commission Act to bring back the Department of Judicial Administration under the watchdog. The DJA – which is tasked with managements of the courts – was previously under the direct control of the Supreme Court.
“Continuous challenges faced in the judicial administration by Supreme Court Secretary General Dr Hussain Faiz has been reported to the commission including threats of removal from the post of secretary general are now tabled for next meeting this commission which is scheduled on 13th November 2019,” the JSC said.
Last week, Didi denied threatening to sack the secretary general. He accused Faiz of meeting Supreme Court staff and telling them that he was in charge. Didi said he advised the secretary-general and reminded him that disciplinary action could be taken. But there was no basis to consider the advice a warning or grounds for an ethics probe, the chief justice said.