The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) has informed Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid on Wednesday that it will not be held answerable to the Majlis’ Independent Commissions Oversight Committee.
As the country’s judicial watchdog, the JSC has been summoned by the commission concerning the appointment of judges in the trial against former President Mohamed Nasheed.
Nasheed is being tried over his controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed during the final days of his presidency.
In response to a summons from the parliament committee, JSC Chair and Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed responded in a letter stating that the JSC refused to discuss any matters concerning the Hulhumale’ Magistrate Court, as it related to an ongoing case.
According to local media, the letter stated that the commission would not abide by the parliament summons, citing a Supreme Court ruling that nobody could influence an ongoing case. The letter justified refusing the commission’s request by noting that the Supreme Court ruling also stated any decisions made against the ruling must be considered void.
JSC is legally required to attend committee: Parliament Speaker
Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, who is also a member of the JSC, has responded to the letter stating that the JSC is legally required to attend and be answerable to its oversight committee.
In the letter, Shahid quoted Article 99 of the Constitution of the Maldives and Article 69 of the Parliament Regulations, adding that as per the constitution, it is parliament which has legal powers to decide on matters concerning independent institutions of the state.
“The Judicial Services Commission, established under Act 10/2008, is required under that law and the Constitution of the Maldives to be answerable to the parliament. Hence, it is mandated to attend the parliament and the relevant permanent parliamentary committee, and to be answerable and accountable for any work that they are doing, or have done,” local media quoted the letter as reading.
Shahid added that as he is incidentally also a member of the JSC, he held no reluctance to attend the parliament committee, even if in a personal capacity, to be held answerable for decisions made by the JSC.
Commission must be answerable to parliament: JSC Vice Chair
JSC Vice Chair, Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Didi, has meanwhile spoken out against the commission’s official response to parliament, stating that its refusal to attend the Independent Commissions Oversight Committee was not a decision of the majority members of the commission.
“From what I know, only three commission members attended the meeting where this decision was made. That doesn’t even meet the minimum required quorum to make a decision,” Didi stated.
“I, myself, could not attend the meeting because of the extremely short notice we were given,” he continued.
“All and any member of the commission must be accountable and answerable to the oversight committee at any time. No one can refuse to do so. As a member of the JSC, I am perfectly willing to attend the parliament meeting and answer to any questions they put to us,” Didi stated.
JSC members summoned
Following the JSC’s official refusal to attend, and the responses in conflict to that decision from the commission’s Vice Chair Abdullla Didi and Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, the parliament’s Independent Institutions Oversight Committee has once again summoned individual JSC members to a meeting scheduled for Thursday night.
JSC members summoned to the meeting are Vice Chair Abdulla Didi, Speaker Abdulla Shahid and member appointed from the public Sheikh Shuaib Abdul Rahman.
Sheikh Rahman on Wednesday publicly aired concerns about the politicisation of the commission, alleging that the commission had ‘handpicked’ magistrates for Nasheed’s trial and openly planned to eliminate him from the September 7 elections.
JSC has used the same justification to refuse to answer the parliamentary oversight committee in November 2012.
The oversight committee has previously determined that the JSC’s creation of the Hulhumale Court – in which Nasheed is being tried – is illegitimate. However this was overruled four to three by the Supreme Court bench, on request of the JSC. Supreme Court Judge Adam Mohamed – the JSC chair – threw the casting vote.