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Maldives: The Judiciary Needs a Thorough Cleanup:

Paper No. 5509                               Dated 14-June-2013

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan.

The judiciary continues to be the weakest link in Maldives in its march towards democracy.  Except for the opposition MDP, no other political party appears to be concerned by the poor performance of the judiciary.  What is more, the Judicial commission which is supposed to be the “Watch Dog” over functioning of the judiciary appears to be highly politicised.

The rot started with the judicial commission allowing incompetent judges with inadequate qualifications to continue under the new constitution and the judicial commission itself is packed with representatives who had and continue to have political leanings.

On 28th of May, the Deputy leader of Jumhooree party Dr. Hussein Rasheed Hassan in one of the public meetings, defined ‘good governance’ as one where there is absolute rule of law, sound and professional, financial and political management, accountable, effective and transparent public institutions and in public spending.

But what Dr. Hassan failed to mention was that for good governance one needs a competent and independent judiciary packed with people of absolute integrity.  Hassan’s own chief Gasim Ibrahim is a member of the judicial commission and is also an aspiring presidential candidate.  It is no surprise therefore that there are allegations that some of the decisions of the Judicial Commission are “politically motivated”.

The Amnesty International had pointed out that there is a failure in the judicial system in Maldives with the appointment of judges who lacked formal training in law and without scrutiny of their legal qualifications. Former President Nasheed was aware of the problem and was in search of some foreign help to train the judiciary.

Gabriela Keaul, after her visit to Maldives as a representative of the United Nations Human Rights Commission found it “troublesome” that some of the Supreme court interventions were perceived as arbitrary and as serving the judges’ own personal interests.

A case in point is of the case filed in the civil court by dismissed Human Rights Minister Dhiyan Saeed who had requested a ruling declaring that transfer of power on Feb 7, 2012 ( from Nasheed to Vice President Waheed) was illegitimate, and taken over by the Supreme Court suo motu.  This is being seen as a “high handed” act of the Supreme Court by some.

The famous ( notorious?) Chief Judge of Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed who was taken into military detention during former President Nasheed’s administration over allegations of gross judicial misconduct continues to hold the same post!  Propriety demands that he is at least shifted from the current post in which there are allegations that he misbehaved.  This cannot happen in any other democratic country.

The case of suspension of the Chief Judge of High Court Ahmed Shareef by the Judicial Service Commission as a “precautionary” measure long after the supposed act, is yet another case and this only confirms that  the rot that has set in the judicial system of the country cannot easily be eradicated.

The suspended High Court Chief Judge Ahmed Shareef filed a case challenging the suspension handed over to him by the JSC and sought an injunction.  In the civil case filed, the Judge’s lawyer Husnu Suood, a former Attorney General in Nasheed’s regime has cited procedural irregularities including the presence at the meeting of the Judicial commission of a dishonoured Civil service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan and the newly appointed Attorney General Aisahath Bisham whose appointment was yet to receive the approval of the parliament.

The High Court Judge who has been suspended had done his duty in temporarily halting of the hearings of the court against former President Nasheed who had accused the judicial Commission in exceeding its mandate in appointing the three member judges panel to the Hulumale Magistrate court that is hearing his case.

In a press conference the lawyer of Nasheed accused of the Commission of political motives behind the decision to suspend the Judge.   The decision could also be perceived as a way to prevent a further delay of the case file by Nasheed.

In the same press conference, Suood further claimed that the presidential candidate of PPM, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the deputy speaker of Parliament and PPM MP Ahmed Nazim and reitred Supreme Court Judge Mujthaz Fahmy have long been in the business of influencing the judges and the verdicts they had been issuing. 

Suood made an open accusation in the presence of the press corps that the “entire judiciary is under the influence of retired Judge Mujthaaz Fahmy.  In a bid to serve the interests of two politicians ( he had named openly) the JSC was planning to juggle judges from court to court and even planned to give salary increments to certain judges.          

Another instance cited by the amnesty international was the selective fast tracking of cases against the supporters of the opposition MDP.  It alleged that throughout the year the authorities are said to have had “political bias” in fast tracking the procedure in the prosecution of opposition supporters accused of criminal behaviour during rallies while failing to prosecute the police and other suspected of committing human rights abuses during the same protests.

There is a fear and a justified one that some of the vested interests of present regime and its "behind the scene supporters" may ensure that the “judicial process is used to prevent former president Nasheed from contesting.  This needs to be watched.

 

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