Justice Karki recuses himself from House dissolution case


Supreme Court Justice Hari Krishna Karki recused himself from the House of Representatives dissolution case being heard by the five-member constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana.

Justice Karki recused himself from the case after two of the petitioners — Senior Advocate Dinesh Tripathi and Senior Advocate Shambhu Thapa — pointed out conflict of interest for Justice Karki in the case.

Tripathi argued that since Karki was appointed attorney general by KP Sharma Oli in October 2015 when he was the prime minister for the first time, Karki should not be on the constitutional bench to hear the House of Representatives dissolution case in which Oli is one of the defendants.

Tripathi said Karki’s presence on the bench would erode the bench’s credibility and its verdict would be shrouded in controversy. He said since there were 14 justices in the roster for the constitutional bench, another justice could easily replace Karki if he recused himself from the case.

Thapa argued that since Karki and Attorney General Agni Prasad Kharel, who is defending the PM’s decision to dissolve the HoR, were once partners in a law firm, conflict of interest for Karki was apparent.

He said he wasn’t questioning Karki’s professionalism, but if he sat on the bench people would question the verdict.

After hearing arguments of the lawyers, justices went to their chambers and consulted briefly.

Karki then announced that he was recusing himself from the case, as a ‘question of conflict of interest was raised by the petitioners’ lawyers’.

Thapa, Raman Kumar Shrestha, Krishna Prasad Bhandari, and Mukti Narayan Pradhan, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, demanded that the HoR dissolution case should be heard by a grand full bench, not just the five-member constitutional bench.

Petitioner Lokendra Oli said all the 13 petitioners had yesterday submitted a petition at the Supreme Court demanding that their case be heard by a grand full bench comprising at least 11 member justices as the House dissolution case was a an important issue.

Shrestha said he and other lawyers appearing on behalf of the petitioners would again raise the issue of forming a grand full bench to hear the HoR dissolution case.

Shrestha told THT that when the HoR was dissolved by former prime ministers Girija Prasad Koirala and Manmohan Adhikari in the 1990s, the SC had formed an 11-member grand full bench to hear the case.

Shrestha said when former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa recommended dissolution of the HoR on 8 January 1998, the apex court had formed a nine-member bench when the king had sought the SC’s opinion,.

Lokendra Oli told THT that all the 19 justices of the SC had heard the case related to deadline for filing or contesting cases affected by COVID-19 lockdown. “HoR dissolution case is equally important, if not more. A grand full bench must be formed to hear the HoR dissolution case,” he added. Oli said Article 128 (2) of the constitution stipulated that the SC would be the final interpreter of the constitution and constitutional bench did not represent the entire SC.

The next hearing of the case has been scheduled for January 13. The SC has listed the case for continuous hearing.