Interim statute against independent judiciary, say SC judges

Kathmandu, January 5:

A full court meeting of the Supreme Court judges held today found several provisions that are “against the concept of independent judiciary” and said they needed to be amended.

An SC judge, who was one of the participants of the meeting, said they had found that several provisions in the Interim Constitution, finalised and signed by the Seven Party Alliance and the Maoist top leaders on December 16, were against the independence of the judiciary and needed to be amended. “We will go through each Article of the Interim Constitution to check its compatibility with the concept of independent judiciary and advise the government to make necessary amendments on Sunday,” the justice told The Himalayan Times.

Most of the judges, who attended the two-and-half-hour long discussion, said the provisions of the Interim Constitution did not respect the concept of independence of judiciary.

“Our main concern is related to the provisions on composition of Constitutional Council, Judicial Council, appointment of Chief Justice by the Prime Minister and also about the submission of annual report of the Supreme Court to the Prime Minister allowing its discussion in the parliament,” the judge added.

The judges also discussed the provision that allows the Prime Minister to assign Chief Justice or any other judge for any judicial job and the procedure of taking oath by the judges.

“We think the provisions do not help ensure independent judiciary,” he added.

The judges are of the view that the Article 113 that allows the PM to control the Judicial Council violates the concept of independent judiciary. They also expressed their concern about the provision in Article 149, which authorises the Constitutional Council to make appointments in the constitutional bodies.

The special power to the PM to appoint three ministers of his choice to the Constitutional Council will make it difficult to function properly, he said.

Some judges flayed the provision that authorises the PM to appoint the CJ and said the power should be given to the Constitutional Council instead.

They also objected to Article 151 that empowers the Council of Ministers to grant pardon and to suspend, commute or remit any sentence passed by any court.

Registrar of the Supreme Court Dr Ram Krishna Timalsena, who was also present in the meeting, said majority of the judges were of the view that several provisions of the interim constitution were against the concept of independence of judiciary and internationally established practices and norms.

“Some judges said it might be against their ethics to make suggestions in the Constitution making process, while others thought it was their duty to protect the independence of the judiciary,” he added.

“We will just advise the government to make proper changes but we will not try to impose our decisions,” he said.