KATHMANDU, Jan 22: Following the retirement of Justice Prakash Wasti, the Supreme Court (SC) will have only six permanent justices left from Tuesday, including the chief justice.
As per the Interim Constitution, there should be 15 justices on the apex court, including the chief justice. The SC can appoint temporary justices on contract, as per necessity.
The four-year term of Wasti, a permanent justice, expired on Monday.
The terms of temporary justices Baidyanath Upadhyaya, Tarka Raj Bhatta, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Bharat Bahadur Karki and Kamal Narayan Das expired last month while anther temporary justice, Bharat Raj Uprety, resigned from his post a week before the expiry of his term.
Though the Judicial Council, the constitutional body responsible for recommending the appointment of justices, had recommended to the government at the eleventh hour to continue the tenures of five temporary justices and skip parliamentary hearings, it could not save the judicial posts as the Office of the President shelved the relevent ordinance.
The Office of the President in December put on hold the ordinance forwarded by the present caretaker government, citing the need for further study before its approval.
Only Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi and Justices Damodar Prasad Sharma, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah, Kalyan Shrestha, Sushila Karki and Girish Chandra Lal remain on the apex court as of Tuesday.
The vacancies for SC justices are not likely to get filled any time soon as the Interim Constitution requires new justices to undergo parliamentary hearings for confirmation of their appointments.
According to constitutional and legal experts, it will now take more time to decide cases as the apex court will be down to only six justices. There are about 14,000 cases pending at the SC.
"This will directly affect the disposal of pending cases," constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya told Republica, adding, "Issues of public concern will also be affected."
He stated that the present situation came about as the judicial leadership did not take a decision on time.
The Special Court is already down to only one justice following the retirement of its chairman Gauri Bahadur Karki and the appointment of the tribunal´s member, Om Prakash Mishra, as chief judge at Rajbiraj Appellate Court some two weeks ago.