The tussle between the Judicial Service Commission and the Supreme Court took a new turn late on Thursday when the JSC voted to disregard the top court’s stay on Justice Abdulla Didi’s suspension.
The JSC, which investigates complaints against the judiciary, made the historic decision to suspend Didi, who is accused of taking a US$1 million bribe in 2015 to sentence former President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail, on Wednesday.
However, the following day, the Supreme Court halted the suspension after Didi submitted a formal appeal.
“We hereby order the Judicial Service Commission and related state institutions not to take any action to implement the suspension of Justice Adbulla Didi and to refrain from taking any action in the mentioned case until this court reaches a decision on Justice Didi’s claim,” the court order stated.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Didi says the judicial watchdog’s action against him violated his right to be informed of a crime without delay, his right to lawful administrative action and fair procedure, and his right to a fair and public hearing.
“I request the Supreme Court to declare that the case against me was submitted to the JSC illegally and dismiss the case as unconstitutional and illegal,” Didi said.
In a further twist, the Judicial Council, comprising the country’s top judges, held an emergency meeting late on Thursday after accusing the JSC of obstructing judicial power and of acting unconstitutionally.
Despite the Supreme Court’s and Judicial Council’s opposition to Didi’s suspension, the JSC stood by its earlier decision, and after convening a meeting on Thursday night, said Didi would remain suspended. The decision to ignore the Supreme Court’s order was made with the agreement of five of the seven members present at Thursday night’s JSC meeting.
According to media reports, the alleged US$1 million bribe paid to Didi was deposited in his wife’s US dollar bank account in Malaysia. Ghaniya Abdul Ghafoor is the Maldivian deputy ambassador to Malaysia.
While Didi categorically denied any personal wrongdoing, he did not deny that the money was deposited in his wife’s bank account.
“I deny these false accusations in the newspapers, and assure [you] that there is no undeserved money in bank accounts belonging to me or people related to me,” he said.
Before his promotion to the top court, Didi was Chief Judge of the High Court, an appointment he took up in February 2016.
The JSC was established to promote the separation of powers and in particular, judicial independence in the Maldives. It has the power to investigate complaints about judges and to take disciplinary action against them, including recommending their dismissal.