CJ to keep Joshee off bench

Kathmandu, January 2

Newly appointed Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana, minutes after assuming charge today, said he would not assign any case to senior-most Justice Deepak Raj Joshee.

Earlier, Rana had taken the oath of office and secrecy from President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.

Rana said he was compelled to deprive Justice Joshee of any opportunity to adjudicate cases,   as he had pledged to the Parliamentary Hearing Committee that if confirmed as CJ,  he would honour the PHC decisions.

The PHC had, on August 3, rejected Joshee for CJ following which some ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders had argued that he should quit. Joshee will retire from service in eight months after turning 65.

During Rana’s confirmation hearing, PHC member Yogesh Bhattarai, who represents the NCP in the panel, had said without mentioning Joshee’s name that the Supreme Court was not honouring PHC’s decision.

Rana said a judge should voluntarily quit his post if questions were raised against his/her capacity and impartiality.

“I have not assigned any case to Joshee today, nor will I do so in the future,” he said while speaking to mediapersons on his first day as CJ. He spoke in front of all the judges and employees of the court to give the message that there was no division in the court “family”. Justice Joshee was not present at the press meet.

Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said the chief justice was within his rights to assign or not to assign cases to fellow justices, but it was wrong if he did so under pressure from the Parliamentary Hearing Committee.

“I heard the CJ pledged before the PHC that he would not assign cases to Justice Joshee. This is wrong because such a pledge undermines the independence of the judiciary. This can have other repercussions for the judiciary in the days ahead,” Acharya added.

General Secretary of Nepal Bar Association Khamma Bahadur Khati said NBA would hold a discussion with Rana and Joshee before coming up with its views on Rana’s decision not to assign any case to Joshee. Khati said he believed that Rana did not have the authority to deprive Joshee of a bench.

He said Rana’s decision smacked of parliamentary intervention in the ‘independence of the judiciary.’ “Leader of the judiciary should resist all political pressure to protect the independence of the judiciary,” he added.

Justice Joshee could not be reached for comments.

When asked about his controversial decisions, Rana said, “Decisions are taken on the basis of prevailing laws, precedents and universally accepted principles. If my decisions were overturned by the higher courts or bench, then that was normal,” he said, adding that even in foreign countries decisions of lower courts are overturned by the higher courts.