The Sher Bahadur Deuba government's decision to confer medals on Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana and justices Anil Kumar Sinha, Sapana Pradhan Malla, and Bishwambhar Shrestha has drawn flak from the legal sector.

On the occasion of the Constitution Day, the government decided to confer Maha Ujjwal Rastradeep medal on CJ Rana, Ujjwal Kirtimay Rastradeep medal on Justice Bishowambhar Prasad Shrestha, and Pradhiddha Prabal Janasewashree on justices Anil Kumar Sinha, Sapana Pradhan Malla, and Tej Bahadur KC.

Senior Advocate Purna Man Shakya, who is also the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said the government should not confer any award or medal on the sitting chief justice or justices as that was against the principle of independence of judiciary.

"Major cases are filed against the government quite frequently that judges have to adjudicate.

They should not receive any medal from the government, which is a case party," Shakya argued.

He said neither the government should confer any award or medal on the judges nor should the judges accept such medals.

Shakya said had the government conferred medals on retired judges, it would have been a different matter. "A retired judge, who does not hear cases against the government, may receive a medal if the government duly evaluates his/her contribution and decides to honour him/ her," he argued.

Advocate Bhimarjun Acharya said the spirit of the Constitution of Nepal, provisions of the UN convention related to the principle of judicial independence, and other regional and international treaties barred judges from receiving any medals or awards from the government.

"Cases are filed almost everyday against the government, and even the president. If judges are allowed to receive medals from the government, that can adversely affect the independence of judiciary," Acharya argued.

CPN-UML leader Agni Prasad Kharel, who is also a senior advocate said the CJ and SC justices who had been awarded medals should reject them for the sake of judicial independence.

"The CJ and other justices who heard the first House of Representatives dissolution case were awarded medals. If they do not refuse such medals, people will think they were rewarded for restoring the House," Kharel argued.

He said lawyers and media houses that advocated for the restoration of the House were also awarded the medals. "If the government wants people to believe that medals were awarded on merit basis, why did it not decide to honour other lawyers who were not involved in the HoR dissolution case hearing?" he asked.

A Nepali Congress lawmaker said judges should turn down awards or medals conferred on them by the executive. "It looks like the government is awarding the judges for deciding against HoR dissolution," he added.

The government honoured 903 people from several walks of life on the occasion of the Constitution Day.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 20 2021, of The Himalayan Times.