Members of the state’s judiciary watchdog the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) have discussed probing allegations of bribery levied against two sitting judges by former President of the Adhaalath Party, Sheikh Hussain Rasheed.
During an opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) rally held last Thursday, Sheikh Rasheed said that last year he had met a Maldivian businessman in Saudi Arabia who had alleged to him that two Maldivian judges had accepted a sum of MVR 12.3 million (US$ 797,148.41).
A JSC spokesperson told Minivan News that after the allegations were made public, members of the commission had discussed an investigation.
“The matter was discussed during the last JSC meeting,” the spokesperson said. Asked whether a decision was reached, he replied “there were many items on the agenda.”
Rasheed alleged the businessman had paid one judge a sum of US$700,000 while other was paid US$50,000 on two different occasions.
The businessman gave the money to prevent his rights being harmed by the other party in the case, whom he alleged had also bribed the judges, Rasheed said.
Rasheed was not available for a comment when contacted.
President of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Hassan Luthfee said he had also heard of Rasheed’s allegations and would giving the matter a high priority.
“The ACC will for sure look into any cases of corruption, regardless of whom it involves. We too have heard of the allegations through the media. We will in the coming days look into this,” he said.
Luthfee said there were no legal barriers to the ACC’s investigation of judicial misconduct, and that the ACC had the jurisdiction to look into any corruption matter even if it involved judges.
“The case will officially be investigated by the ACC,” he said.
Former President’s Member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee in her book The Failed Silent Coup: in Defeat They Reached for the Gun extensively highlighted the watchdog body’s undermining of judicial independence, and complicity in sabotaging the separation of powers.
In her book, she recounted her experience as the outspoken whistleblower as she attempted to stop the commission from re-appointing unqualified and ethically-suspect judges loyal to former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, after it dismissed the professional and ethical standards demanded by Article 285 of the constitution as “symbolic”.
That moment at the conclusion of the constitutional interim period marked the collapse of the new constitution and resulted in the appointment of a illegitimate judiciary, Velezinee contended, and set in motion a chain of events that ultimately led to President Mohamed Nasheed’s arrest of Chief Criminal Court Judge Abdulla Mohamed two years later.
Current Home Minister Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed – himself a former judge and Justice Minister – has admitted the quality of services delivered by the judiciary remains disappointingly gloomy while writing in an op-ed article in Haveeru.
“Our judiciary has some bright minds, but that does not exempt it from scrutiny; the judiciary in the Maldives, with the exception of few courts and judges, the judiciary as a whole has earned a deservedly bad reputation for its inconsistent judgments, lack of leadership, lack of competency and being out of touch with modern laws and views of the society,” he wrote.
In 2004, a report by judicial expert Professor Paul Robinson assessed the country’s criminal justice system, and found in his report that “serious efforts” were required to increase the quality of judges.
“Serious efforts must be made to provide substantial training to current judges in order to ensure that all have the background they need in both law and Shari’a. Perhaps more importantly, no judge should be hired who does not already have the needed training,” he wrote.