PHC grills chief justice nominee Joshee

Kathmandu, July 26

Acting Chief Justice Deepak Raj Joshee, who would grill lawyers in his bench, found himself in a reverse role today,  responding to a volley of questions thrown by Parliamentary Hearing Committee members.

In today’s confirmation hearing for chief justice,  PHC members  grilled   Joshee, the sole nominee for CJ,  about ‘corruption in the judiciary,’  and some of the SC’s  stay orders that ‘hindered government’s development projects and prevented the government from collecting millions in revenue.’ The panel will take a decision on chief justice appointment tomorrow.

Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Suman Raj Pyakurel wondered why  Joshee had issued a stay order allowing  a non-resident Nepali to build a house on public land at Baluwatar.  He said the courts should protect public land.

He also said that a complaint lodged against Joshee said that he had denied tenancy right to a daughter who had been authorised by her father to inherit the tenancy right.

Another NCP (NCP) lawmaker Niru Pal why the SC had issued stay order allowing Ncell to repatriate billions of rupees and why the court stayed the government’s decision to collect taxes from casinos.

Nepali Congress lawmaker Bhimsen Das Pradhan sought to know how Joshee would control ‘corruption in the judiciary’ and ‘shenanigans of middlemen and land mafias.’

Another NC lawmaker Jitendra Narayan Dev said lawyers had boycotted the High Court bench in Rajbiraj to protest ‘corrupt practices’ in the court.

NCP  (NCP) lawmaker Surendra Pandey said the SC had recently passed a verdict saying that the government should pay enough compensation to development project affected people and  satisfy them which would prevent the government  from implementing development projects.

“When I was a minister, the government paid Rs 1.1 million for a land plot that was hardly worth Rs 11,000,” he said and added that often people inflated the price of their land plots and in some cases some government offices also colluded with them.

NCP (NCP) lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai claimed that a middleman with the surname of Dahal had been following Joshee from Halesi Bazar of Khotang district. He asked Joshee: Can you commit that you will not hold any meeting with middlemen? He also wondered why people accused of smuggling and middlemen were invited as guests at Joshee’s daughter’s engagement ceremony.

He also said that the issue of ‘bench shopping’ was a cause for concern and the SC should revert back to old practice of assigning cases by drawing lots. He also wanted to know if the SC could livestream all its hearings.

NC lawmaker Pushpa Bhusal said stay orders were effective in cases involving fundamental rights but not in other cases, especially involving revenue. He said there should be rule to guide the duration of stay orders.

Responding to PHC members’ queries, Joshee said there were issues involving sub judice cases, including that of Ncell, which should not be debated. He said all the cases, except a tenancy case, were decided by other justices. Joshee also said that he decided not to uphold tenancy right of a woman because the case was filed before the law guaranteeing equal rights to son and daughter was enacted.

On the query of land acquisition, Joshee said that the government could find solutions if it paid  minimum compensation amount determined by land revenue office. “Although slogans of socialism were chanted during elections, the country has not marched on the path of socialism. The court will not prevent the government from achieving the goals of socialism,” he added.  He also said that the courts’ needed the baton of wisdom to serve the cause of justice. “An accused remains innocent until proven guilty,” he added.

Joshee said he would follow the SC’s strategic work plan to ensure easy access to justice and would enforce compliance of judges’ code of conduct. He said the government needed to give at least one per cent budget to judiciary to do its job effectively.

Acting CJ calls MPs ‘friends’, draws flak

Acting Chief Justice Deepak Raj Joshee addressed Public Hearing Committee members as ‘friends’ during his confirmation hearing today, drawing flak from a panel member.

PHC member Parbat Gurung objected to acting CJ’s utterance of the word ‘friends’, saying panel members were lawmakers and they should be addressed as ‘ honourable member of Parliament.’

Following lawmaker Gurung’ objection, Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna, who chaired the meeting, ordered the Parliament Secretariat staff to remove the word ‘friends’ from the record.

Joshee said he used the term ‘friend’ as he was also an ‘honourable’ justice of the Supreme Court. “I used the term because I am also an honourable justice,” he said, “But I am ready to withdraw my word if that hurt any member’s sentiment.”