Judiciary facing unprecedented setback due to adamant Chief Justice

Govinda Luitel

October 31, 2021


Judiciary facing unprecedented setback due to adamant Chief Justice

Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana (L) and the Supreme Court of Nepal.

KATHMANDU: Despite increasing pressure on Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana to resign from the post to end the ongoing crisis at the judiciary, he (the Chief Justice) has not given up.

Rather he has challenged political parties to file an impeachment, saying he will only withdraw from the constitutional process.

Institutionally, Chief Justice Rana is feeling isolated as majority of the Supreme Court judges have formally boycotted the benches assigned by him, a rare incident to see in the history.

Politically, the ruling coalition is silent on the issue. Leaders of the main opposition CPN-UML have sided with Chief Justice Rana and have said that their party would not table the impeachment motion against him.

Chairman of the CPN-Maoist Center Pushpa Kamal Dahal, one of the key components of the ruling coalition, has said that the ruling coalition will soon make public its views on the allegations against the Chief Justice, but no concrete opinion has come out till date.

Another component of the ruling alliance, the CPN-Unified Socialist, has remained silent.

Prime Minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba is out of the country.

The Nepal Bar Association has launched protests giving an ultimatum to Chief Justice Rana to either resign or face further protests in the days to come. Law practitioners gathered at the Supreme Court premises wearing black armbands.

Despite protests and boycotts, Chief Justice Rana has scheduled 248 cases in 12 benches. He scheduled two cases in his single bench and 14 cases in the joint bench comprising himself and Judge Kumar Regmi.

Judges have continued to boycott the hearing. The NBA has stated that the protest will continue until the resignation of Chief Justice Rana.

Instead of resolving disputes or paving the way for a new leadership, Chief Justice Rana has resorted to self-defense through interviews.

In a recent television interview, he claimed that all the allegations against him were false. However, his fellow judges and institutionally the NBA are not ready to take his cue.

One of the allegations of misappropriation against Chief Justice Rana is the decision to reduce the imprisonment of the then DIG of the Armed Police Force, Ranjan Koirala. He had ‘deliberately’ ignored the review in that case. Koirala was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife.

The Kathmandu District Court had sentenced Koirala to life imprisonment on April 20, 2014. The then Patan High Court had also pronounced the same verdict.

However, a joint bench of Chief Justice Rana and Justice Tej Bahadur KC had reduced the sentence to eight and a half years. As a result, Koirala was immediately released.

The Office of the Attorney General had filed a review petition on July 23, 2020, the same day as the verdict. On the fourth day, i.e. July 26, a joint bench of Justices Bam Kumar Shrestha, Prakash Kumar Dhungana and Kumar Regmi granted permission to review the verdict.

Fifteen months have passed since the review was officially allowed; however, no session has been scheduled.

Koirala had killed his wife Geeta Dhakal in the second week of January, 2012, and set her on fire in Palung, Makwanpur.

The question has arisen as to why Chief Justice Rana did not file a petition for 15 months to review the decision of his bench. In this regard, he has always maintained silence.

It is alleged that Chief Justice Rana did not, deliberately, make environment for the review of the decision made by his bench.

The then Prime Minister KP Oli issued an ordinance on the Constitutional Council and made constitutional appointments. Chief Justice Rana was also present at the meeting of the Constitutional Council as per the ordinance.

Earlier, there had been writ petitions against the ordinance and the appointment. The writ against the ordinance is in the Constitutional Bench and the writ against the appointment is in the Division Bench.

The question has arisen as to whether the writ petition filed against the Chief Justice will be heard in the Constitutional Bench when the existing legal provisions seek mandatory presence of the Chief Justice.

After such a question was raised, Chief Justice Rana, in his writ petition, announced to stay away from the Constitutional Bench.

In the meantime, further complicating the dilemma, Judge Hari Phuyal,  had gave the verdict that hearing in a writ petition related to mandatory presence of Chief Justice had to be settled prior to making any other decisions with or without the presence of Chief Justice Rana.

Chief Justice Rana, however, has not been able to resolve this issue.

A writ petition filed by Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota seeking annulment of the constitutional appointment is on the division bench but has not been moved forward for adjudication.

Chief Justice Rana was present at the ‘controversial’ meeting of the Constitutional Council on Appointments. He has submitted a written reply stating that the appointment is constitutional. The writ petition has not been heard since then.

Chief Justice Rana has also been accused of “bench shopping”. It is alleged that the hearing was held for the purpose of making a favorable decision for one of the parties.

There are also allegations that the court has failed to do any work of reform. Overall, there are allegations of anomalies, irregularities and corruption in the judiciary.

The Nepal Bar Association has made such allegations of late.

The Chief Justice has also ignored the suggestions given by the task force formed to reform the court.

The Chief Justice has been embroiled in controversy after it was alleged that he was seeking a seat in the cabinet.

The controversy over the resignation of Chief Justice Rana has erupted after his relative was appointed as a non-parliamentary minister to confirm the allegation that he was seeking a share.

Although he had denied the allegations before the appointment, the appointment has proved his rebuttal to be false.

Chief Justice Rana has been alone for quite a long time. All the judges have boycotted the bench allocation. Nepal Bar Association has staged a protest demanding the Chief Justice’s resignation.

Four former chief justices have also publicly suggested that incumbent Chief Justice Rana should resign. Claiming that he ( the Chief Justice) has followed the suggestions of 30 million people, he has turned deaf ears to the suggestions of his predecessors.

He has even personally protested against the allegations and suggestions of his predecessor Chief Justices.

Rather than listening to the public demands and the suggestions of his predecessors, Chief Justice Rana has stated that he will face impeachment but will not resign.

His opponents have accused him of challenging the impeachment on the basis of the current party structure in the House of Representatives and the perception that impeachment is not possible as it is.

He has ignored the fact that there are some constitutional provisions which deem it desirable for the Chief Justice to resign from the post when serious offences are made against him.

He seems to have tried to present himself as supreme and above constitutional provisions at present.

Despite pressure from all quarters to resign, the country’s highest judicial body has been at stalemate due to the Chief Justice’s stubbornness. As a result, the judiciary is facing an unprecedented crisis and is in a whirlwind of uncertainty.