The Judicial Service Commission on Wednesday recommended the removal of Chief Justice Dr Ahmed Abdulla Didi and Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla from the Supreme Court bench.
The JSC decided to recommend their dismissal to parliament after probing complaints of ethical misconduct. The watchdog also suspended the pair for 60 days “in consideration of the type of cases investigated by this commission and based on the principle of maintaining trust in the judiciary.”
Both Didi and Adam Mohamed refused to cooperate with probes launched by the watchdog in light of a report that flagged 17 instances where the Supreme Court violated the constitution or usurped powers of the executive, parliament, lower courts and independent bodies.
On Tuesday, Adam Mohamed refused to attend a hearing of a JSC investigation committee, contending that the watchdog lacks the constitutional authority to launch an ethics probe in relation to the merit of decisions made by a judge. The chief justice refused to accept a summons and investigation report by the committee on the same grounds.
According to the JSC, two other justices have accepted their investigation reports. The JSC law grants accused judges 30 days to respond to the report.
A judge can be removed if the JSC finds that he is grossly incompetent or guilty of gross misconduct. A resolution submitted to the effect must be approved by a two-thirds majority of MPs present and voting, according to the constitution.
Along with a lawyer elected by licensed practitioners, the 10-member oversight body is comprised of three representatives each from the executive, legislature and judiciary. Earlier on Wednesday, Justice Abdulla Areef – who represents the Supreme Court on the commission – resigned as president of the JSC for undisclosed reasons.
MP Hisaan Hussain, who was elected by lawmakers to represent parliament, was chosen as Areef’s replacement at Wednesday’s meeting of the commission.
Heartfelt congratulations to MP @hisaanhussain on her appointment as President of @MaldivesJSC Being the capable lawyer you’re I’m assured that your sincerity & steadfastness will be a great asset in this crucial moment of judicial reform.A historic day for the nation #AnhenVerin
— I.Riffath (@ibriffath) November 13, 2019
The chief justice has been at loggerheads with the JSC since its majority tilted in the wake of presidential and parliamentary elections. 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.
On Tuesday, the JSC denied investigating complaints “on the basis of merit of judgment reached by the judge” and insisted that the probe concerns violations of the code of conduct.
“We note that these are complaints made by the public for more than a decade and the same have been reiterated in findings of international expert’s reports compiled by UN Special Rapporteur Gabriela Knaul in 2013 and retired justice of South Africa Johann Kriegler in 2019,” the JSC said.
The damning report by Kriegler – which was made public in October – called the Supreme Court “a major threat to democratic rule in the Maldives, not because of any fault in the constitution but because of the unlawful conduct of the court over the last decade.”
Kriegler, who worked as a consultant for the Attorney General, recommended a JSC investigation of the incumbent justices “on charges of gross misconduct in undermining the constitution.” Criminal charges could be raised if there was “reliable evidence of personal corruption or other impropriety,” he suggested.
Violations listed by the JSC report sent to parliament in August:
- Halting the JSC’s suspension of Justice Didi with a stay order issued on June 13.
- Striking down articles in the Judicial Service Commission Act to bring the Department of Judicial Administration under the direct supervision of the apex court with a ruling in December 2008.
- Striking down articles in the Judicature Act with a ruling in March 2011 to abolish the Judicial Council created by the new law.
- Taking over regulating the legal profession and licensing lawyers from the Attorney General’s office with a ruling in November 2015.
- The en masse suspension of 54 lawyers who signed a petition for judicial reform.
- Shortening the period for appealing lower court judgments to 10 days.
- Taking over the JSC’s power to transfer judges with new rules enacted in September 2014.
- Sentencing former ruling party lawmaker Ahmed Nazim to life imprisonment – seven months after the appeal period expired – and overturning the judgment three years later.
- Arbitrarily sacking a civil court judge in February 2017 after declaring that she has “lost the legitimacy, legal capacity, and authority” to remain on the bench.
- Removing the former president and vice president of the Elections Commission two weeks before the March 2014 parliamentary elections and handing the pair a suspended jail sentence of six months.
- Issuing an 11-point guideline restricting the powers of the Human Rights Commission after initiating criminal charges against HRCM members in “suo moto” proceedings that allow the court to launch hearings and act as both plaintiff and judge.
- Overruling parliament’s dismissal of former Civil Service Commission president Mohamed Fahmy for sexual harassment.
- Blocking the JSC from evaluating the performance of judges in August 2013.
- Issuing an anti-defection ruling in July 2017 that stripped a dozen lawmakers of their seats and deprived 60,000 constituents of representation for more than a year.
- Declaring itself the final authority to determine the validity of the parliament’s removal of the president, vice president, ministers, judges, auditor general, prosecutor general and members of independent institutions. The legitimacy of no-confidence or impeachment votes was subjected to a Supreme Court review.
- Rescinding parts of a shock ruling on February 1, 2018. The order was signed by the full bench but the part for the release of political prisoners was rescinded by three justices after the arrest of former chief justice Abdulla Saeed and justice Ali Hameed.
- Imposing rules concerning the administration of other courts and the conduct of judges through circulars and letters, effectively legislating or usurping parliament’s law-making powers.