The Judicial Service Commission suspended Supreme Court Justice Abdulla Didi on Wednesday while he is being investigated by the police for allegedly taking a USD$ 1 million bribe.
The JSC, a ten-member oversight body for the judiciary, also suspended Chief Judge of the Family Court Hassan Saeed and recommended the sacking of Magistrate Ibrahim Rasheed from the Thinadhoo magistrate court in Gaafu Dhaalu atoll.
This is the first time the JSC has taken an action against a Supreme Court justice in its 11-year history. It is also the first time the commission has recommended that parliament dismiss a judge.
The decision to suspend Didi, who is accused of taking a US$1 million bribe in 2015 to sentence President Mohamed Nasheed to 13 years in jail, was taken with the majority support of the commission.
In response to the historic actions of the JSC, the Judicial Council, run by the apex court, announced that it planned to form a new judges’ association. However, the Judicial Council’s move would contravene the constitution, which states that only one judges’ association may exist at any one time.
To resolve the legal impasse, the government will seek help from Attorney General Ibrahim Riffath before allowing the association to be registered, Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof, who is in charge of the civil society registration, said.
The bribery case against Didi was submitted to the JSC on Sunday by parliamentary speaker and former president Mohamed Nasheed, who by virtue of his position as speaker is himself a member of the commission. He voted in favour of suspending the top court justice.
The session was chaired by JSC President Abdulla Areef, a Supreme Court justice and colleague of Didi.
“The investigation committee came to a decision that he [Justice Didi] should be suspended for the period of the investigation. The committee put forward the decision to the commission floor and it was decided by a majority vote,” Hassan Zaheen, the director of the commission, said in a briefing on Wednesday.
The JSC said nothing further about Family Court Chief Judge Hassan Saeed and Magistrate Ibrahim Rasheed.
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.