The hearing scheduled by Criminal Court for Tuesday to deliver the verdict on former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom's money laundering trial was cancelled following the suspension of the court's Chief Judge Ahmed Hailam.
Following the conclusion of hearings in Yameen's money laundering case, the ex-President's verdict was scheduled to be announced on 1300hrs on Tuesday afternoon.
Judge Hailam was suspended by Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on Tuesday morning over posting an image to a Viber group chat of the lower court, which depicted President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and former President Mohamed Nasheed, along with the orchestrators of the November 3, 1988 coup, in chains.
Over the controversial post, JSC launched a disciplinary investigation into the judge and issued a summons for Tuesday morning.
However, Hailam did not attend JSC, instead sending a letter stating that all the information he wanted to offer to the commission were already included in a press release he publicised.
The judicial watchdog declared that this reasoning was unsatisfactory.
JSC further disclosed that the commission decided to suspend Hailam during a meeting chaired by the commission's President and Supreme Court Judge Abdulla Areef, as Hailam attending work during the ongoing investigation may result in loss of confidence in the judiciary due to the nature of the issue.
Hailam was suspended for a duration which will not exceed 60 days, as stated in the Judicial Service Commission Act.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code, the verdict for any case must be delivered within thirty days after hearings conclude. Since the hearings for Yameen's case concluded on October 9, Yameen's verdict must be announced before upcoming Saturday.
The Criminal Procedure Court further states that if the Judge leading the trial is indisposed for any reason, the judge handling the court operations will make a decision on the matter. Another judge can be tasked with continuing the case or commence a retrial.
Judge Hailam publicised a statement on Monday night issuing a public apology , clarifying that he was unaware that the President and Parliament Speaker were depicted in the controversial picture at the time of posting it to the Viber group.
In the statement, he further stated that members of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) accusing him of accepting bribes regarding Yameen's trial was influencing his work and the ongoing trial.
"I guarantee the Maldivian people that I have never used my position to score any undue advantages for anyone at any time nor have I been involved in any such activities".
Opposition parties People's National Congress (PNC) and Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) speculate that Judge Hailam is under investigation to influence Yameen's verdict, adding that the judiciary was never this deeply influenced in the past.