Armageddon Between Executive And Judiciary
The country was bracing for the local polls when a twist of events outcropped in the form of an impeachment motion against the sitting Chief Justice, Sushila Karki, on April 30. The motion was registered in Parliament by as many as 249 parliamentarians representing the CPN Maoist-Centre and the Nepali Congress. The motion was brought apparently to influence the verdict on the appointment of the Inspector General of Police slated for May 2.
First in Nepal
Registering an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice is the first of its kind in the judicial history of Nepal. Although the impeachment motion was registered expressing discontent with her work, the motion reeked of foul play. As such, the government drew flak from various quarters, including the international community. As the government was about to hold discussion on the motion, the Supreme Court issued a stay order against the motion, paving the way for the Chief Justice to resume office.
This development has put the government in the soup. As the waves in favour of the Chief Justice were sweeping the country, the Legislature-Parliament did not deem it appropriate right now to discuss and put the motion to the vote. Therefore, the Legislature-Parliament has now gone into adjournment till May 18 in view of the local polls slated for May 14 as well.
The executive, the legislature and the judiciary are three important organs of the state. They play an important role in managing state affairs. The legislature passes laws, which are implemented by the executive. The judiciary, in turn, ensures that the laws are as per the provisions enshrined in the constitution and are brought into execution properly. These three organs are governed by checks and balances and segregation of powers. The mechanism of checks and balances ensures that none of the organs goes out of its track while performing its functions, whereas provision for segregation of powers makes sure that they do not step into one another’s jurisdiction.
The impeachment motion originated with the appointment of Prakash Aryal as the Inspector General of Police after the previous appointment of Jay Bahadur Chand as the IGP was quashed by the Supreme Court and the subsequent writ against the appointment registered in the Supreme Court by Nawaraj Silwal. The Supreme Court was preparing to issue its verdict in favour of Silwal when the impeachment motion was registered against the Chief Justice out of the blue.
The government considered the verdict against the appointment of Chand a direct interference with the jurisdiction of the government. Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba also challenged the verdict of the Supreme Court, for which a case of contempt of court was registered against him.
The impeachment motion is considered faulty by many. If the Chief Justice cannot work well or fails to fulfill her duties and responsibilities, there are other legal ways for remedy. Impeachment is the pis aller, which is resorted to when all other remedial measures have failed. Further, most of the parliamentarians have complained that their signatures set aside for other purposes were used for the registration of the impeachment motion. This shows the ill intention of the government against the Chief Justice. The government is not, therefore, sure that the impeachment motion will be endorsed by Parliament. This may be one of the reasons why Parliament has been adjourned. Now the political parties representing the government are into electioneering and hustings.
Three should be good harmony among the executive, legislature and judiciary for state affairs to be accomplished like clockwork, for the rule of law to prevail and for democracy to get strengthened. Any conflict of interest among them may affect their functions. While discharging their respective duties, they should keep in mind the principle of segregation of powers and not poke their noses into one another’s jurisdictions.
With the reinstatement of the Chief Justice through an interim order issued by the Supreme Court, the government has been in a dilemma whether to go through with the impeachment motion or find some other way to resolve the matter. In this regard, one of the way-outs may be to submit the impeachment motion to the Impeachment Recommendation Committee of the Legislature-Parliament, which will deem the motion inappropriate and the government will agree to the report of the committee. In the meantime, the stay order will be vacated and the situation will limp back to normal. The other option would be to withdraw the impeachment motion.
It seems the impeachment motion initiated by the government has boomeranged upon itself. Now the motion has been a matter of prestige for the government. It may be recalled that the other day the government did not agree to the proposal of the CPN-UML to withdraw the motion, fearing that it would affect its credibility.
These developments happening as they are just on the eve of the local elections may affect the prospects of winning the elections of the CPN Maoist- Centre and the Nepali Congress as the impeachment motion may have eroded the credibility of these parties. Many quarters have taken the motion as a ploy of the CPN Maoist-Centre trying, on the coattails of the Nepali Congress, to sabotage, or take under control, the judiciary without considering its independence. The judiciary is the last resort where justice is delivered when it cannot be delivered elsewhere. As long as the judiciary is allowed to function well and independently, the rule of law is maintained. Challenging the judiciary for self-directed motives will only make a mockery of justice, which will bode ill for the judicial system.
So the government should draw a lesson from the current developments so that such incidents will not repeat themselves in the future and all the three organs of the state will function in a spirit of synergy and checks and balances so that the rule of law is maintained and democracy is strengthened. After all, state affairs must proceed effectively, which is not possible sans the harmonious interplay of these three state organs.