The Majlis yesterday amended the Judges’ Act (13/2010) to award a Rf 53,250 monthly retirement package to former Interim-Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, who was found to have embezzled state funds in 1996.
Former Justice Fahmy claimed, by fraudulent means, Rf900 in overtime pay while working as a judge at former Court No.2 in 1996. A development that casts doubt over his moral character and according to the principle of hadd offences, whether he met the constitutionally-stipulated Islamic qualifications required for the bench.
According to a letter seen by Minivan News that was sent to the Justice Ministry by the Anti-Corruption Board in June 2009, former Justice Fahmy and another judge were said to have deliberately omitted their working hours from attendance records to carry out the deception, and to fraudulently obtain pay for work they had not done.
None of the 77 MPs who were present when the retirement package was passed yesterday raised the question of former Justice Fhamy’s fraud record, despite some MPs openly admitting the package was being introduced especially for the former Justice.
Dismissing any objections to the extraordinary circumstance where the nation’s legislative body passes a law designed for a specific person, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed said, “Even though it may appear today that this is an amendment proposed for one person only, it is something that we have to do for the future.”
MP Rasheed also pointed out that the People’s Majlis passing a law for the benefit of one particular person is not without precedent. He asked members to recall another similar legislation passed with former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in mind.
MP Afraasheem Ali, who had introduced one of the amendments, also made it clear that it was a purpose-built package for former Justice Fahmy.
“I believe that it will enhance the strength of the country’s judiciary immensely if we were to award these benefits, as we have proposed in the amendments, to Mr Mujthaz, the judge who recently left the Supreme Court”, MP Afraasheem Ali said.
MP Afraasheem said judges are awarded high salaries and benefits to ensure their ethical and disciplinary standards, and that it is essential for them to continue to be able to uphold their dignity and impeccable ethical standards even after they leave office.
“If a retired Justice were forced to wheel a cart on the street after leaving the bench, it will not give them the respect and the love that they received in office, and still deserve”. That is why, he said, it was essential for Mujthaz – who was specifically named in the Majlis – to be awarded the package.
Article 149 of the 2008 Constitution requires that only those who possess the stipulated educational qualifications and competence, in addition to a “high moral character”, are eligible for the bench.
It also stipulates that only those who “have not been convicted of an offence for which a hadd is prescribed in Islam, criminal breach of trust, or bribery” should be allowed on the bench.
Theft, big or small, is one of the hadd offences prescribed in Islam.
A judge’s required professional qualifications, as stipulated under the Constitution, requires education in Islamic Shari’ah or law in addition to a minimum of seven years experience.
Former Justice Fahmy’s education qualifications, although a matter of public interest, are not publicly available. Documents seen by Minivan News show that in addition to the “Sentencing Certificate” with which former Justice Fahmy first sat on the bench, he has undergone four other training programmes in the last 29 years.
In 1985, he attended a two-month “Training for Island Court Judges”; a four-month “Training to Upgrade Judges” in 1996 – the same year in which he was found to have made fraudulent claims for overtime; a month long “Computer Course conducted by CPL” in 1998; and a four-day training programme conducted for Maldivian Judges and Court Administrators in Singapore in October 2007.
According to these records, Justice Fahmy spent a combined total of roughly eight months –217 days – spread over a period of 26 years training for his career in the judiciary, which ultimately put him on the Interim-Supreme Court bench and has now provided him with the lifetime retirement package of Rf600,000.
The above total does not include the unspecified number of days it took him to acquire the initial “Sentencing Certificate”, but includes the month in 1998 which he took to learn how to use a computer.
There is no record of whether or not former Justice Fahmy had any formal education before acquiring his sentencing ‘sanadh’ or certificate.
A law degree takes an average of four years to obtain, and has higher entry requirements than most other faculties in the humanities.
Article 285 of the Constitution required that the Judicial Service Commission – established to oversee the professional, ethical and disciplinary standards of the judiciary – remove from the bench by August 2010 any sitting judge who did not fit the criteria stipulated in Article 149.
Former Justice Fahmy himself was the Vice Chair of the Judicial Service Commission from 2008 to 2010. He was removed on 7 August 2010, when the Interim Supreme Court was abolished and the Supreme Court proper established in its place. He also lost his seat in the JSC as a result.
MP Afraasheem, who introduced part of the amendments to reward former Justice Fahmy the retirement package, is also on the Judicial Service Commission and was a colleague of former Justice Fahmy.
MP Afraasheem is on record as having said that Article 285 is “symbolic”, suggesting that he does not regard the Constitutional stipulations concerning a judge’s qualifications and moral character as legally binding.
Fonadhoo MP Abdul Raheem Abdulla, who introduced the amendments at Majlis yesterday, is in the Parliamentary Oversight Committee for Independent Commissions, with oversight of the Judicial Service Commission.
Speaker Abdulla Shahid is also a member of the JSC.
MP Afraasheem also proposed to the Majlis yesterday that the benefits package for retired Supreme Court Judges should begin from 7 August 2010. It was the day on which former Justice Fahmy was ousted from the two positions he held – the Interim-Supreme Court bench and the JSC seat.
Minivan News has also learnt that despite Justice Fahmy not having been a member of the judiciary for the last four months, he has continued to receive full salary and benefits “pending a decision by the Majlis”.
The salary for a Supreme Court Justice is Rf51,000, plus Rf20,000 in living allowances.
A “Special Car”, or “Kaaru Kolhu” as well as medical insurance worth Rf12,000 is also part of the monthly remunerations.
The amendments approved by Majlis yesterday also entitles a Supreme Court Justice who retires after 20-25 years of service to two thirds of a serving Supreme Court Justice’s salary.
If the retirement is after 25 years of service, they are entitled to three fourths of the salary. Benefits and other living expenses as well as state protection, and the status of a dignitary are also included in the package.
It will become law if President Nasheed ratifies the amendments within fifteen days of receiving them from the Majlis.