JSC to investigate whether judge’s bribery claims breached code of ethics

The Judicial Services Commission’s legal section will investigate whether Judge Aisha Shujoon Mohamed’s bribery claims breached the judges code of ethics.

Speaking on Maldives Broadcasting Corporation’s (MBC) ‘Heyyambo’ show last Friday (February 14) Judge Shujoon said there was some truth to the belief judges accepted bribes in the Maldives, revealing that she had been offered a US$5 million bribe herself.

“Now we are starting the investigation,” said Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Spokesman Hassan Zaheen. “We can research and after that we will know.”

The JSC’s code of conduct states in article 4.6 that “If a judge is known to have been involved or is involved in such an activity, all action must be taken to put a stop to this.”

The code also mandates that judges “exhibit high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the judiciary and refrain from activities that jeopardize the dignity, eminence and integrity of the Judiciary.”

Spokesman Zaheen was unable to give further details as to which aspect of the code Shujoon’s comments are suspected to have breached.

Commitment to the code of conduct is one of five criteria to be used in assessing the performance of judges as part of new JSC regulations, introduced last month.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has already announced its decision to investigate Shujoon’s claims, with President Hassan Luthfy noting that judges must inform the ACC of bribe attempts immediately.

“Concealing bribe attempts is an offense, even by the code of conduct for judges. It is an offense not to inform this commission,” Luthfy said.

Expanding on the issue of bribery last Friday, Shujoon told her interviewer that she could not say whether judges had or had not accepted bribes, but that it may happen given the salaries allocated to judges.

“It [bribes] can be very appealing if its sets you up for life, given our pay and the amount of work we have to do. So I cannot say there is no truth to that. That is because something like that happened to me,” said the judge.

Shujoon became one of the country’s first female judges in 2007, though she told MBC that she was considering retirement.

According to a study conducted by governance NGO Transparency Maldives in December, the judiciary is perceived to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country.

Approximately 55 percent of those surveyed believed the judiciary to be most corrupt, while 60 percent and 57 percent believed the parliament and political parties to be most corrupt, respectively.