Reiterates stance against CJ-led govt
KATHMADNDU, Feb 27: Taking strong exception to the decision of Chief Justice (CJ) Khil Raj Regmi to lead an election government, Nepal Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella organization of lawyers across the country, has said that following his move the CJ does not have any moral basis for remaining in the bench.
An emergency meeting of the NBA held in the capital on Tuesday concluded that given the statement of the chief justice to media that he has already accepted the offer of premiership, he should give up his responsibilities as head of the judiciary as continuing in that post would be against the code of conduct for judges.
“It [the CJ´s agreeing to lead a new government] has raised a moral question over the CJ. So, he should not sit in the bench from now on,” NBA Vice-president Tikaram Bhattarai told Republica.
NBA has maintained that it is determined to stick to its earlier stance that a sitting chief justice, while remaining in that capacity, cannot be the head of the executive also.
“It will be against judicial norms and values if the head of the judiciary, whose fundamental responsibility is to carry out judicial reviews of the activities of other organs of the state, also holds the post of head of the executive,” reads the NBA statement issued after the NBA meeting.
NBA has said the Interim Constitution has not envisaged assigning the chief justice to any task other than those related to judicial inquiry and in case the head of the judiciary is deputed to any such task there is no constitutional provision for him to return to his previous post of chief justice as that post is not like any post in the civil, military or administrative services.
NBA has urged the apex court to clarify the grounds for Monday´s statement issued by the latter. Stating that it would have long-term impact on the independence of the judiciary and the supremacy of law as the statement has dragged the apex court into political controversy, the NBA meeting also drew the attention of sitting justices regarding the statement.
The SC, issuing a press statement on Monday, had said the chief justice was positive over the proposal for him to head a government in order to end the ongoing political and constitutional crisis, and he was not motivated by any personal ambition.
“The judiciary of the country has stuck to the principle of separation of powers since its very establishment and Nepal is a party to various international conventions regarding the issue. So, the country cannot go against it and if it does go against it that will only invite a negative result for the independence and prestige of the judiciary,” the NBA statement further reads.
NBA has stated that the meetings of the chief justice with political parties since a couple of days have ridiculed judicial norms and values and the independence of the judiciary. “The move is also against the code of conduct for judges,” reads the statement.
NBA has expressed grave concern over the SC´s statement and the statement of the CJ in the media, and pointed out that this could also affect an issue that is sub-judice.
The apex court on Sunday had sought written clarifications regarding the matter from the president´s office, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his office and UCPN(Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal by March 5.
Following hearings on a writ petition filed by Advocate Bharat Mani Jangam at the SC, a single bench of Justice Sushila Karki had decided to forward the case to a special bench, stating that it was necessary to interpret several laws before issuing a final verdict. The next hearing on the petition will be held on March 7.
However, NBA has made it clear that it is always ready to garner support for any solution that is found through political consensus and that remains within the parameters of the constitution, constitutionalism, judicial and democratic norms and values.
Asked if NBA had softened its tone in comparison to earlier, a senior official said, “NBA has issued such a strong statement against a sitting chief justice for the first time in its history,” adding, “We would decide to go for protests but we have only expressed our objection in the first phase as we are a group that belongs to the intelligentia.”
Besides incumbent NBA officials, NBA former presidents, general secretaries and Kathmandu Valley unit presidents were also present at the meeting.