Impeachment Motion: Has Sanity Prevailed ?
The ripples created by the impeachment motion registered against the Chief Justice (CJ) and the subsequent stay order of the motion by a Supreme Court Justice have appeared to have subsided, much to the jubilation of all the concerned.
Sigh of relief
The impeachment motion has indeed threatened to bring the nation's Legistlature, the Executive and the Judiciary into an unexpected level of confrontation. But after an "understanding" among the top leaders not to press ahead with the motion, and CJ Sushila Karki's "decision" that she would not look after any pending cases herself till she retires, the situation seems to have come to normalcy. The talks centered on the breaching of the principle of power separation, following the alleged encroachment of jurisdiction of the Legislature and the Judiciary by each other, too seems to have ebbed for the time being.
After the unexpected turn of event was brought under "control", the nation has gasped a huge sigh of relief. The likely confrontation among the three pillars of democracy was finally averted after the apex court stayed the impeachment and the reinstated CJ opted to stay out of the court hearing of the some 'vital" cases.
The volatile situation, one should not forget, came under some normalcy only after the political parties and the judiciary drew flaks for their respective steps that suggested about the combative mood. First, it was accused that the impeachment motion was a politically motivated step. The subsequent step to stay the motion by a Supreme Court justice was criticised as the stay verdict was thought to have breached further the principle of power separation. Many said that impeaching a sitting chief justice is the jurisdiction of the sovereign Legislature and its parliamentarians.
The ruling Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre tried to impeach the CJ through their 249 lawmakers who had registered the motion, but the ruling coalition partners were greeted with criticism from different quarters. The situation of the coalition partners went from bad to worse after some of its lawmakers whose name appeared in the motion said that they were unknown about the impeachment motion. Most of them said that the signatures were taken for different issues, but were used in the impeachment motion against the CJ.
The Nepali Congress was irked that the CJ Karki's verdict regarding the appointment of Inspector General of Nepal Police (IGP) went against the party's chief Sher Bahadur Deuba's wishes. To the dismay of NC president, Karki was again scheduled to hear the case pertaining to the IGP appointment just two days after the impeachment motion against her was registered that sent her on an automatic suspension from her post. Several other corruption related cases in which political leaders and powerful people were involved were also to be heard by CJ Karki.
From the Nepali Congress perspective, the impeachment motion was a pre-emptive strike that sent the CJ into an automatic suspension. The Maoist Centre was angry against the CJ because of her latest verdict in which she had directed the Nepal Police to arrest Maoist leader Bal Krishna Dhungel against whom the Supreme Court had earlier implicated in a murder case.
While the ruling parties were criticised for leveling weak accusations to impeach the CJ, the motion had infuriated the CPN-UML, the main opposition, and one of the ruling coalition partner, the RPP. The Kamal Thapa-led RPP was quick to give up government citing the impeachment unnecessary and politically motivated, the UML later welcomed the stay verdict on the motion, and said that it restored the prestige and image of Judiciary.
But the issuance of the stay by the single bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana was construed by many a confrontational step and a large section of the legal experts and others started fearing that the verdict would invite a backlash or even bring the heads of many constitutional heads in the dangerous circle of impeachment.
But the day when suspended CJ returned to the Supreme Court after the impeachment motion was stayed by the single bench of justice Rana, she decided not to engage herself in the hearing of the cases while the political parties were said to have not to press ahead with the impeachment motion. Rather, it is believed that they would withdraw the motion and allow the CJ to retire peacefully.
In our nation, confrontation between the Executive and the Judiciary often emerges owing to various reasons. The Executive or the government does not often want the Judiciary interfere in its works while the Judiciary thinks that it has all the right to scrutinise the Legislature and the government's performance and their action in the light of the provisions mentioned in the sovereign constitutions. The Judiciary is the final interpreter of the constitution, the supreme legal document of the nation.
The crisis that flared up in the three major institutions of democracy has also threatened to weaken our democratic values. But the last ditch efforts from all the concerned to resolve the problem has somewhat overcome the situation.
The rot in all the organs of the country was invited because of granting of portfolios and making of important appointments on the basis of political sharing. None of the important democratic institutions of the country, many allege, is free from the political sharing and political quotas when it comes to the appointment of significant positions.
In the aftermath of such an upheaval in the nation's top three democratic pillars, one is inclined to say that our political parties that often form and control the government must be wary that they would not create any situation that would bring the Judiciary into turmoil. The existence of free and independent judiciary where the justices are allowed to work independently must be given high consideration. On the other, the justices and judges must also not be involved in issuing controversial verdicts, so that the image and prestige of the judiciary as one of the main pillars of democracy remain intact in the nation. We have many examples in which controversial verdicts and ruling have been made even in cases that are serious and closely watched by whole country.
In the final analysis, the crux of problem seems to lie on the all concerned parties. Those who are in the leadership of three democratic institutions must give utmost respect to the jurisdiction or the rights of each other and they should be wary that they must not attempt to overlap, encroach or interfere in other's jurisdiction and rights. Sanity must prevail among all the concerned.