Four former chief justices - Kalyan Shrestha, Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Anup Raj Sharma and Sushila Karki, who have been accused of contempt of court for condemning the dissolution of the House of Representatives - today submitted their written reply to the Supreme Court, arguing that whatever they had said was within the confines of the constitution. They said they would stick to what they had stated in their press release issued on January 8.

Submitting a joint reply, Rayamajhi, Shrestha, and Karki said the HoR dissolution was an unconstitutional act and they stood by their stance. They said their remarks were not aimed at a sub judice case or the court but at factors responsible for the HoR dissolution.

They said they would have no objection if the hearing of the contempt of court case was done together with the hearing of the HoR dissolution case.

This incomprehensible and mysterious complaint is one of the series of attempts by the establishment to force society to follow its diktats thereby infringing upon the people's sovereignty and quest for justice, the three former CJs stated in their written reply.

Stating that an attempt was being made to instil fear of contempt of court in their minds, the three former CJs said proponents of freedom of expression and democracy should not be forced to accept the fate of controlled society.

No one should expect others to stay silent on issues that undermine democracy and curtail freedom of expression just because those issues are sub judice, they argued.

They said they were neither creating obstruction in the adjudication of justice nor interfering in the functioning of the court and the Parliament. "We cannot tolerate any attempt to bar us from expressing our thoughts within the bounds of the constitution and law that we deem right," they argued.

They said if the plaintiff's complaint was valid, then everybody who took part in the gatherings organised in favour or against HoR dissolution should be punished under the contempt of court law, but doing that would be against people's freedom of expression.

The three former CJs said the petitioner had not raised questions against those who made public remarks in favour of HoR dissolution.

They said everybody had the right to form opinion on public interest litigation.

If anybody thinks that supporting HoR dissolution is respecting the court and only terming the HoR dissolution illegal is contemptuous, then that is objectionable, they argued. They said the plaintiff had not clearly stated which action of theirs created undue pressure on justices.

Former CJ Anup Raj Sharma quoted Article 128 (4) of the constitution in his reply, stating that only those acts that created obstruction in the adjudication of a case could be considered contemptuous, but their statement did not do anything to create obstruction in the process of adjudication of justice.

As no court official went to serve the notice of the case to the former CJs even three weeks after the SC ordered them to appear before the court with their written reply within seven days, the four former CJs went to the SC today on their own, received the summons and submitted their written reply.

Advocates Dhanjit Basnet and Lochan Bhattarai have filed separate cases against the four former CJs.

The four former CJs had issued a statement on January 8, saying that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's move dissolving the House of Representatives was an unconstitutional act and the court should quash the government's decision to dissolve the House and reinstate it.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 16, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.