Sher Bahadur Tamang, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, announced drafting laws to make property details of judges public. And this is a welcome step. It will go down as a step toward maintaining transparency in judiciary and reviving people’s trust in the justice delivery mechanisms, which in the recent times are often viewed with suspicion. This announcement comes at a time when image of judiciary has been damaged. After Gopal Parajuli’s mishandling of corruption-related cases along with other controversies surrounding him, Nepali public have become watchful of the activities and performance of judges, including their property status. Image of judges who provide justice should always be clean and unquestionable. Curiously, Nepal does not have any legislation that requires judges to make their property details public, while such a provision was introduced in India a decade ago.
In the recent history of the Supreme Court, only Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha is found to have made his property details public. The ministers, prime minister and even the president have to make such details public. There is no reason why the judges—who are also the public officials paid for by taxpayers’ money—should not do so. It is a well-known fact that public officials and politicians are perceived as the most corrupt actors in Nepal. No wonder we have not been able to improve much in corruption perceptions index. According to Transparency International, Nepal stands at 122 out of 175 countries in corruption perceptions index of 2017. This has hampered our economic progress. The new government has vowed to root out corruption. This commitment will only materialize when irregularities (a number of such cases have been reported in the recent times) in justice delivery institutions are also controlled.
Maintaining transparency will be the right step toward achieving that goal. There is a perception in general public that judiciary in Nepal is not free of corruption. Judges are accused of amassing disproportionate amount of wealth while in power. The success of a vibrant democracy largely depends on independent judiciary. Among three components of a democratic government, the role of judiciary is always crucial to bring legislative and executive bodies in proper order. Officials of such a vital organ of the state should maintain high moral strength and transparency. But this cannot be done only through the initiative of a single minister. All the lawmakers should support this noble initiative. Of course, making property details public alone won’t be enough to bring much-needed reforms in our judiciary. But it will certainly help in maintaining transparency and reviving public trust on our judiciary, which is often the last resort for people to go when justice is denied.