KESHAV P. KOIRALA
KATHMANDU: Lawmakers of ruling Nepali Congress and CPN Maoist Centre on Sunday afternoon registered an impeachment motion against Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Sushila Karki at the Parliament Secretariat, accusing her of interfering with the executive including in the appointment of Nepal Police’s chief, breaching the principles of separation of power, influencing her fellow Justices and failing to fulfill her duties in judiciary efficiently.
Nepali Congress lawmaker Min Bahadur Bishwakarma is the proposer and Maoist lawmaker Tek Bahadur Basnet the seconder of the motion. It is said that a total of 251 lawmakers have signed the motion.
Bishwakarma and Basnet have made a slew of allegations against Karki to justify why the impeachment motion was moved against her.
One fourth of the total number of Members of Parliament can challenge any the Justice of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with a motion of impeachment at the Parliament “on the ground of his or her failure to fulfil his or her duties of office because of serious violation of this Constitution and law, incompetence or misconduct or failure to discharge the duties of office honestly or serious violation of the code of conduct”, according to the Article 101.2 of Nepal’s Constitution.
They claimed that the SC verdict that Karki made against the promotion of Nepal Police’s Inspector General interefered with the Cabinet’s executive right granted by the Constitution’s Article 75 by referring to a non-existing provision in the Rule 41 of Nepal Police Regulation. They charged that Karki manipulated the facts –by swiping two DIGs’s work performance evaluation scores — and resorted to falsity while issuing the verdict.
Another allegation against her includes being biased while fixing benches as she repeatedly chose five Justices among 19, and directing the Justices to deliver the verdicts the way she wanted. Further, they said Karki did not abide by rules and regulations but breached them and was guided by her ulterior motives while delivering justice. According to them, Karki put the court’s dignity, independence and fairness at stake.
Instead of treating justices at the Supreme Court equally, they said, Karki resorted to groupism, and failed to deliver justice independently and provide an environment to others to do so.
Since Karki made a serious breach of Nepal’s Constitution and laws as well as the code of conduct for the justices, failed to bear her responsibilities, according to the letter, the impeachment motion was brought as per the Rule 168.1 of the Parliament Regulations.
After the commencement of impeachment proceedings under the Article 101.2, according to the Article 101.6, the chief or official of any constitutional body shall not be allowed to discharge the duties of his or her office pending the settlement of such proceedings. That means Karki will face an automatic suspension.
The impeachment motion comes on the eve of SC’s final verdict on a case filed by DIG Nawaraj Silwal against Prakash Aryal’s appointment as the Inspector General of Nepal Police.
Earlier, a full bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by Chief Justice Karki, had revoked the Cabinet’s February 12 decision to appoint Jaya Bahadur Chand the Nepal Police chief — dubbing it arbitrary, flawed, unjust and a bizarre example of pick and choose.
With a conclusion that the government did not follow the Nepal Police Regulations and other established norms while elevating Chand to the Nepal Police’s top post, the SC categorically told the government to consider seniority as well as merit and petitioner [Nawaraj Silwal]’s legitimate expectation while making decision then after. Many believed that the verdict had paved the way for Silwal’s appointment as the IGP.
The government, however, on April 10, appointed Prakash Aryal the IGP. Silwal moved the apex court again.
On April 25, in response to a supplementary writ filed by Silwal, a division bench of three Justices told the government not to take any action concerning the IGP appointment as it was sub judice until the final hearing on the writ petition scheduled for May 2.
Karki had assumed her office at the Supreme Court as Nepal’s first woman justice on August 1, 2016.
This is the second time that the lawmakers moved an impeachment motion against any head of constitutional body after the new constitution was promulgated in September 2015.
Earlier, the CPN-UML and Maoist lawmakers had filed an impeachment motion against the then chief of Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, Lok Man Singh Karki faced an impeachment motion.
Karki, however, was automatically removed after the Supreme Court dubbed him ineligible for the post, at the time Parliament was buying time to take a concrete decision on the proposal.
What’s in the Constitution
Article 101.2. Impeachment: One fourth of the total number of the then members of the House of Representatives may move a motion of impeachment against the Chief Justice of Nepal or a Judge of the Supreme Court, member of the Judicial Council, chief or official of a Constitutional Body on the ground of his or her failure to fulfil his or her duties of office because of serious violation of this Constitution and law, incompetence or misconduct or failure to discharge the duties of office honestly or serious violation of the code of conduct. If the motion is passed by at least two thirds majority of the total number of the then members of the House of Representatives, the concerned person shall relieve of his or her office.
Article 101.6 After the commencement of impeachment proceedings under clause (2), the Chief Justice of Nepal or Judge of the Supreme Court, member of the Judicial Council, chief or official of the Constitutional Body shall not be allowed to discharge the duties of his or her office pending the settlement of such proceedings.
Article 101.7 A person who is charged with impeachment under clause (1) or (2) shall be provided with a reasonable opportunity to defend himself or herself.