Kathmandu, May 4 (newsin.asia): The manner in which the impeachment motion was registered against Nepal’s first lady Chief Justice, Sushila Karki, and the kind of charges leveled against her, show just how ridiculous those in power can become, writes Ameet Dhakal in www.setopati.com
The legislature is empowered to use the impeachment process against the judiciary and constitutional bodies as a last resort, if they cause demonstrable harm to the nation by overstepping their mandates or abusing their authority. But it is imperative that an informed debate takes place before the legislature takes this step.
An impeachment motion was filed against ex-CIAA chief Lokman Singh Karki also last year. In his case, the motion was preceded by an adequate informed debate about his involvement in the abuse of authority and whether he should be stripped of power.
The media had exposed a slew of evidence about the CIAA chief’s abuse of power to run a parallel government in defiance of the legislature and judiciary. When the impeachment motion was finally filed against him, it was a justified move, one appreciated by the public.
In Chief Justice Sushila Karki’s case, necessary public debate is missing. While some people have doubted her legal and constitutional expertise, no one has ever questioned the justice’s integrity.
The charges leveled against Karki are so baseless and frivolous that they only expose the malicious intent of the government. The prime accusation is that she interfered in the Executive’s right to choose the police chief. But her verdict clearly states that the government can appoint the police chief only if it follows its own guidelines. It is the court’s duty to judge whether the Executive’s decisions are in tune with the Constitution and other laws.
In her verdict on the petition against the Maoist-NC government’s decision to appoint Jaya Bahadur Chand (who had lower performance scores than his competitors) as police chief, Karki was merely fulfilling her duty as Chief Justice.
Former Justice Balram KC has never been Karki’s admirer. But he has publicly defended Karki’s verdict against Chand’s appointment, arguing that either the best performing officer must be appointed as police chief or the guidelines must be revised.
How did that verdict infringe on the rights of the Executive? None of the MPs who signed the impeachment motion have dared to explain it in public. And it was a bench of five justices that unanimously nullified Chand’s appointment. Why was the impeachment motion not filed against four other justices?
Other accusations against Karki are weak and ridiculous. For example, she has been accused of discriminating against justices while assigning them responsibilities. It is a chief justice’s basic right to decide which justices will hear which cases: she does not need to consult the government for that. Neither Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal nor NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba has the right to grill Karki about this.
Why did Dahal and Deuba gang up on the chief justice? Details of their joint conspiracy will surely come out. At this moment, it looks like they were afraid that Karki could also nullify Prakash Aryal’s appointment (as the new police chief after Chand’s promotion was overturned by the apex court).
In his second tenure as Prime Minister, Dahal had partially restored his reputation. But he has now lost it all in one fell swoop. The conspiracy to impeach the Chief Justice will be even more counter-productive for Nepali congress leader Deuba. In his past three tenures as Prime Minister, Deuba had disgraced himself and his party many a time. But this will be his biggest shame.
Now the question: how will the NC shed the dishonor brought upon it by Deuba? Two-thirds of the MPs who signed the impeachment motion against Chief Justice are from that party, so the NC will have to take the biggest share of the blame.
This impeachment motion is bound to fail, but the Chief Justice is already suspended unjustly.
Binod Ghimire writes in Kathmandu Post that back in 1995, Bishwanath Upadhyay, who is still remembered for his integrity, legal acumen and courage to make difficult decisions, as Chief Justice decided to reinstate the House dissolved by then Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari.
It had only been five years since the reinstatement of democracy in 1990 and Upadhyay’s decision of overturning the government move was largely seen as a confrontation between the Executive and the Judiciary. That was a historical decision—though the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) was furious about it then and even now.
Cut to 2017
Sushila Karki is now facing an impeachment motion. Given the lengthy process, Karki will retire long before Parliament votes, if the motion of impeachment is not withdrawn in the near future. The incident, however, has sparked a debate whether the Executive and Judiciary are on a collision course.
As many as 249 lawmakers from the two big ruling parties—Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre)—last Sunday registered a motion at the Parliament Secretariat seeking to impeach Karki, charging her with infringing the executive’s jurisdiction and nurturing factionalism in the judiciary. She was suspended.
The NC and Maoist Centre have met with widespread criticism for their move, with many saying the move to impeach Karki lacks solid grounds and smacks of vengeance. While the ruling parties have accused Karki of working against the principle of separation of powers, those who are objecting to the move say an impeachment motion against her could dismantle that very principle, which is the basic tenet of a democracy.
“The ruling parties have unleashed an attack on independence of the judiciary by filing an impeachment motion against the chief justice. The reasons presented by them for filing the motion do not hold water,” said former Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha.
“In a democracy, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary must function well and independently. A decision taken by one entity might not be pleasant to the other, but they have to respect each other’s decisions,” Shrestha said.
Experts who have criticized the ruling parties’ impeachment motion have even warned that the move could dismantle the entire system of checks and balances, which they say could lead to a system collapse at a time when the country is struggling to institutionalize the constitution.
If the dramatic events that followed the impeachment motion against the chief justice are anything to go by, the move, experts say, has been made by the ruling parties only to get Karki out of the bench, as the NC and the Maoist party lack the required numbers (396) in the 593-strong Parliament to impeach her. The constitutional provision, however, has it that a quarter of sitting lawmakers (149) can file an impeachment motion that results in suspension of the person to be impeached.
(The featured picture at the top shows Chief Justice Sushila Karki)