CJ Karki Reinstatement Justice Prevails, Finally!
Ritu Raj Subedi
The conflict between the judiciary and executive has further deepened with the reinstatement of suspended Supreme Court Chief Justice Sushila Karki. Now the legislature has also been dragged into a tussle with the SC following its ruling that has reversed the impeachment motion against CJ Karki. The ruling coalition has blown a fuse over the apex court interim order, which it said has encroached upon the jurisdiction of the executive. The government is in a fix about how to proceed with the impeachment motion against Karki in the House in the face of SC interim order to put it on hold. The potential political missteps on the part of ruling forces risk turning the credibility of all vital organs - executive, legislature and judiciary – to dust. This requires that they demonstrate conventional wisdom to avoid any futile dispute and inclination to score a Pyrrhic victory.
The government has been in the firing line from various quarters over its controversial bid to indict CJ Karki. In the charge-sheet, the government accused her of overstepping the mark in the appointment of chief of Nepal police. Besides, she has been blamed for bad conduct and deviation from the execution of justice, among others. But, a single bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana spotted the government’s Achilles heel in the impeachment motion that argues that SC verdict on the case related to the promotion of Inspector General of Police contravened the standard legal practice. Rana, in his ruling, termed the arraignment unfounded. “This is not objective and realistic. Other charges have been leveled against Karki based on the promotion of Nepal Police Chief. At first sight, it has become clear that the impeachment proposal is against the spirit of Nepal’s constitution,” said the ruling.
The SC has sought public hearing to examine whether the judges in questions have unconscionable conduct and committed serious lapses while delivering verdicts. Evidences to this accusation are created only after serious intellectual deliberations among the civil society members are held, it stated. “The court is a very sensitive organ of the state. The impeachment motion that is registered in a guerilla style carries no relevance,” Justice Rana said in his ruling. He has insisted that impeachment motion, registered in an arbitrary manner, hurts the independence of judiciary and in such a situation, the rights and welfare of no agency or citizen can be ensured. “It is also imperative to maintain the independence of judiciary for the future generation.”
Advocates Kanchan Krishna Neupane and Sunil Ranjan Singh had knocked on the doors of SC demanding that impeachment motion be quashed as it contravened the main law of the land. They had argued that the impeachment proposal ran counter to Article 105 of the constitution, which says that no discussion shall be held in either House of the Federal Parliament on any matters that may cause adverse effect on the dispensation of justice on any cases which are sub-judice in any court of Nepal and on any judicial acts done by judges in the course of performance of their duties.
The SC interim order in response to their joint petition can be open to multiple interpretations. Critics can describe it as an infringement on the prerogative of parliament that formulates laws guiding the overall activities of the state. The government can invoke those Articles of the constitution that grant sweeping power to the parliament. It risks abusing the constitutional powers against each other and undermining the principles of separation of power.
Nonetheless, the SC ruling has dealt a blow to the government that is struggling to steer the nation through the election course. It is a case of court saving the court itself when it faced attacks from different directions. What is true is that it had utterly failed to keep its finger on the pulse. It underestimated the overwhelming public opinion that stands against its flippancy with the court over appointment of police chief.
Many view that the impeachment motion aims at humiliating CJ Karki who has earned her spurs with a series of bold decisions that sent chills down the spine of corrupt and convicted people. The indictment came little over a month before she retires from office on the ground of age. The government is not ready even to decide the motion within two weeks as demanded by the opposition for it lacks the required number of lawmakers to pass it in the House. The coalition government intends to send her packing and procrastinate the impeachment process until she takes mandatory retirement.
The hidden motive of impeachment motion has ruffled many feathers at home and abroad. It has triggered public outcry in the streets. The political parties, media, civil society and international community joined hands to dismiss the motion. Of late, the United Nations came in the defense of CJ Karki, putting the government on the defensive. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has condemned the moves to impeach the Chief Justice, warning that such actions suggest a concerted attempt by the government to undermine the independence of the judiciary. “Chief Justice Karki has been instrumental in a number of high-profile and politically sensitive decisions, and therefore the attempt to remove her gives rise to serious concerns about the government’s commitment to transitional justice and the rule of law,” Zeid said, stating that SC’s recent rulings have been critical in advancing human rights in Nepal, assisting victims seeking justice for the crimes and serious human rights violations committed against them.
Breaking nefarious nexus
For all her shortcomings, CJ Karki had boosted the image of judiciary when other state agencies have lost their confidence and morale with gratuitous political meddling in them. She had finally belled the cat by announcing that former chief of Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lok Man Singh Karki was not eligible to hold the top post of the anti-graft body. The courageous move came when the ruling party lawmakers were recoiling at the thought of pushing the impeachment motion against Lok Man Singh Karki in the House. The nefarious nexus between mafias, crooked politicians and corrupt persons has sapped the vitality of the state. It is faltering with prolonged transition fuelled by the incompatible stands of major actors. In such a situation, CJ Karki has showed the guts to rid the country of corruption and political highhandedness. Her reinstatement testifies to the fact that the people’s voice for justice and delivery has not been lost in the wilderness.