SC at Tipping Point Over Administrative Independence: Suood
Supreme Court Justice Husnu Al Suood has strongly criticised the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for impeding the administrative autonomy of the judiciary.
During an appeal hearing for a collective lawsuit filed against the JSC by ten former court administrators, Justice Suood raised questions about the JSC’s sluggishness in appointing judges to courts.
Although the administrators were dismissed by the Department of Judicial Administration—a division that was previously under the Supreme Court—a recent amendment to the Judicial Service Act has transferred the mandate to the JSC to select judges and various court personnel.
As the employees were not terminated by the JSC, the bench queried JSC lawyers about the rationale behind their appeal. The JSC contended that it held jurisdiction as the highest authority in administrative matters concerning the courts.
This line of defence irritated Justice Suood, who posed pointed queries to the JSC regarding its efficacy in managing the judicial system. He noted that the position of Secretary General of the Supreme Court had remained vacant for over two years.
“For over two years, the most senior administrative position has remained vacant. If you (JSC) hold the highest authority in these matters, when will we see this position filled?” he questioned.
He further remarked, “This institution is at a standstill. This is the Supreme Court of Maldives. When can we expect a resolution? Could you enlighten us? How can we operate this institution? We lack the administrative capacity to run it, and we lack the authority to appoint staff.”
He expressed the sentiment that despite being one of the three branches of state power, the Supreme Court was dependent on external resources for sustenance.
“I wish to ascertain when our top administrative post can be filled,” he reiterated.
In response, the JSC lawyers stated their inability to provide immediate answers but committed to addressing the issue with the JSC.
In response, Justice Suood underscored that the Supreme Court was seemingly placed in the role of supplicants to ensure its administrative operations remained functional. He inquired whether the JSC interpreted the constitution to mean that the courts had to perpetually beseech the JSC.
He remarked, “If the JSC was competently managing the judiciary, then perhaps this could be accepted. But you are not. You cannot even fill the vacant positions within this court. Yet, you maintain that the JSC governs the judiciary. There are only seven justices in this court; no one else. And still, you claim to be overseeing the judiciary?”
This is not the initial instance where the Judicial Service Commission has faced severe criticism. The commission is frequently accused of being influenced either by the executive or the legislative branches. The commission comprises members representing the courts, parliament, civil service, lawyers, and citizens.
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