The Supreme Court today quashed a writ petition filed by Senior Advocate Surendra Bhandari challenging the eligibility of Surkhet High Court Chief Judge Nahakul Subedi.

A single bench of Justice Tej Bahadur KC ruled that Subedi who was nominated for Supreme Court Justice by the Judicial Council, was eligible for the SC judgeship.

On March 12, the Judicial Council had recommended High Court chief judges Kumar Chudal and Nahakul Subedi as justices of the SC.

A few days ago, the Supreme Court Bar Association had opposed Subedi's nomination saying he did not meet the eligibility criteria.

The SC said in its verdict that Subedi, who was appointed first class gazetted judicial officer on 23 July 2007, had worked as chief registrar of the SC till 9 January 2018 before being appointed High Court chief judge, and thus Subedi had served in the gazetted first class post for a total 13 years, six months and 21 days. The court said that it cannot be argued that the post of High Court chief judge was not a post above the gazetted first class.

It also said that the argument that the period of service from gazetted first class, registrar, chief registrar and chief judge should not be counted was wrong as all these posts were in judicial service. The bench observed that a judicial officer who had served the judiciary for more than 12 years should be taken as suitable candidate.

The SC said that although the executive, Nepal Bar Association, Supreme Court Bar Association and political parties had their concerns about appointment of justices, priority in the appointment of justices should be given to evaluation and views expressed by the judiciary, which keeps in mind judicial independence, impartiality and competence. The court said that as Subedi had held the post of gazetted first class officer or a post above for more than 13 years, he met the eligibility criteria of 12 years experience as stated in Article 129 (5) of the constitution. The court said no one should expect only lawyers to be nominated as SC justice.

The court said it would wrong to argue that competent personalities from judicial service had made their career as springboard for judgeship.

Article 129 (5) of the constitution stipulates that any citizen of Nepal, who has obtained a bachelor's degree in law and served as chief judge or judge of a High Court for at least five years, or who has obtained a bachelor's degree in law and has constantly practised law as a senior advocate or advocate for at least 15 years, or who is a distinguished jurist with at least 15 years experience in the judicial or legal field, or who has served in the post of gazetted first-class or a higher post of the judicial service for at least 12 years, shall be deemed eligible for appointment as Supreme Court justice.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 13, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.