Justice Adam Mohamed Abdulla has refused to attend an investigation committee of the Judicial Service Commission, objecting to the watchdog’s refusal to accept his lawyer and contesting the legitimacy of its probe into alleged misconduct.
The watchdog is conducting a probe against four justices 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.
A public hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon was cancelled after Justice Adam Mohamed refused to attend. The hearing was previously postponed twice after after the JSC’s investigation committee refused to accept Dr Mohamed Jameel as a lawyer, on the grounds that a case filed by the former vice president challenging his July 2015 impeachment is before the Supreme Court.
Adam Mohamed contended that there was no conflict of interest as he has recused himself from the case but the JSC noted that constitutional cases must be heard by the full bench.
The JSC committee’s insistence that the full bench must hear Jameel’s case was an “unconstitutional” encroachment of the Supreme Court’s powers and jurisdiction, the apex court declared in a statement released to explain the justice’s refusal to attend Tuesday’s hearing. The right to retain legal counsel is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, it added.
Echoing the chief justice, the statement contended that the constitution does not allow the watchdog to review or consider the legitimacy, legality or constitutionality of court decisions. All the cases included in a notice sent to Adam Mohamed by the JSC included Supreme Court judgments, rulings and orders as well as regulations enacted by the apex court, it noted.
The JSC cannot launch an ethics probe or take disciplinary action in relation to the merit of any decision made by a judge, it added.
The watchdog was informed of the justice’s refusal because he “considers the ‘summons to appear for investigation’ sent in the name of investigating the cases stated in the Judicial Service Commission’s notice to be invalid by its nature, and because everyone has the right not to obey an unlawful order with reference to article 64 of the Maldives constitution.”
Earlier 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.
Photo from PSM