CJ failed to protect judicial freedom: NBA

Kathmandu, February 1:

President of the Nepal Bar Association (NBA), Shambhu Thapa, has accused the Chief Justice, Dilip Kumar Paudel, of failing to maintain the independence of the judiciary following the February 1 royal takeover.

Speaking at a programme organised here by the NBA to observe black day in protest of the February 1 royal takeover, Thapa said, “The Chief Justice is mainly to blame for failing to maintain the independence of the judiciary.”

“It would have become impossible for anyone to violate the Constitution if the Supreme Court had played a strong role to protect the Constitution.”

Thapa and NBA general secretary, Madhav Banskota, also raised questions about the recent appointment of judges at the Supreme Court.

The judicial council is making preparations to appoint judges in Appellate Courts and District Courts under pressure from the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Niranjan Kumar Thapa, they said.

The appointment of Pawan Kumar Ojha as the judge of the Supreme Court is the evidence of royal intervention in the judiciary, Thapa, the NBA president, said.

“The 1990 Constitution does not provide unlimited authority to the King. Rather, it guarantees the rights of the sovereign Nepali citizens,” Thapa said.

“We do not want to curtail the rights of the King,” Thapa said, adding: “We only want to call on the King not to trample on the rights of the commoners.”

Thapa also criticised the government for arresting lawyers, rights activists and politicians “so as to prevent them from protesting against the February 1 royal takeover”.

Banskota also accused the government of interfering with the independence of the judiciary. “If the government appoints more royalists as judges, we would be compelled to launch protests.”

Stating that the February 1 royal takeover had become unpopular, senior advocates Bishwa Kanta Mainali and Krishna Prasad Bhandari urged the King to give up powers and not to curtail the rights of the people.

Time has come to hit the streets to protect the rights of the people, Supreme Court Bar unit chief Dhruba Nath Panta and Appellate Court Bar unit chief Ishwari Bhattarai said.