Nepal | April 10, 2020

PHC clears SC justices for appointment

Jagdishor Panday

Kathmandu, April 18

The Parliamentary Hearing Committee today unanimously confirmed five Supreme Court justice nominees after conducting a confirmation hearing for more than six hours.

SC justice nominees who were confirmed by the parliamentary panel are career judges Prakash Kumar Dhungana and Sushma Lata Mathema and lawyers Hari Prasad Phuyal, Kumar Regmi and Manoj Kumar Sharma. The newly confirmed justices will be appointed by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.

The chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court can serve till they turn 65.

Appearing before the panel, all the SC justice nominees said if confirmed, they would work independently without fear and favour to uphold the constitution, ensure the rule of law and deliver justice to the needy.

Members of the panel asked the nominees’ views on the allegations listing certain cases to certain benches for hearing.

Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Surendra Pandey told justice nominees  that during Panchayat era the king would appoint justices, but the justices were so bold that they would even overturn the king’s decision.  “Justices should have this kind of courage and integrity,” he said. Pandey said justices should be neutral after appointment though there had been complaints that most of the nominees were close to communists.

Barring Manoj Kumar Sharma, against whom Nepal Bar Association’s former president Shambhu Thapa had lodged a complaint that he did not have the required qualification to serve as a justice of the apex court, confirmation hearing for other four justice nominees went smoothly.

Members of the panel grilled Sharma over his qualification, particularly his experience in legal field. They told him that his presentation was poor. NCP lawmaker Parwat Gurung even told him to consider withdrawing his nomination.

Sharma, however, claimed that he was eligible for the post as he had worked as a lawyer for 18 years. Any lawyer, who wants to be nominated for the SC Justice, must have at least 15 years of experience in the legal field. Thapa had claimed in his complaint that Sharma did not have 15 years of experience in the legal field.

Lawmakers Yogesh Bhattarai, Surendra Pandey and Parwat Gurung sought to know from the nominees whether they endorsed the declaration of judges’ conference that opposed justice nominees’ hearing by the PHC.

Regmi and Phuyal said judges’ work was to defend the constitution and the law, not to comment on legal provisions. “Those entrusted with defending the constitution should not come up with a statement contradicting the constitution,” Phuyal said.

A version of this article appears in print on April 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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