Judge’s demotion case lands in SC again

Kathmandu, August 9:

A controversial case that caused the demotion of a Supreme Court justice, Paramananda Jha, a year ago, has reached the apex court once again.

The Kathmandu District Court (KDC) had awarded an eight-year jail term

to a drug peddler, Dil Bahadur Gurung. But two years ago, Jha, then a Supreme Court judge, granted bail to Gurung.

Gurung has been arrested again and the case, once again, has landed in the apex court.

A single bench of justice Balram KC today issued a notice to the Kathmandu District Court and the Narcotic Drug Control Law Enforcement Unit asking them to explain, within five days, the reason behind the arrest of Gurung. The unit had arrested Gurung from Shiphal on Tuesday. Appealing for the release of Gurung, a habeas corpus petition was registered yesterday.

The Judicial Council headed by Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Paudel had demoted Jha for “improperly” acquitting Gurung on September 17. Overturning the Kathmandu District Court and Patan Appellate Court orders to jail Gurung, Jha had granted him bail.

Police had caught Gurung while he was trying to smuggle 679 kg of marijuana into Holland some three years ago. A three-member panel comprising SC Justices Anup Raj Sharma, Khil Raj Regmi and Ram Prasad Shrestha, which was formed to examine Gurung’s acquittal, concluded that Jha’s decision to acquit Gurung was improper. The panel also recommended the Judicial Council to press Jha for resignation and not to extend his tenure if he does not resign.

The Judicial Council had demoted apex court judge Jha, deputing him as the chief judge of the Biratnagar Appellate Court. But the apex court had to call Jha back as lawyers and people of Biratnagar opposed Jha’s posting in the appellate court. The apex court then sent Jha to the Judicial Council’s reserve pool.

The habeas corpus petition, claiming that Gurung has the right to remain free until the decision of the Patan Appellate Court, has demanded Gurung’s release. Gurung claimed it was improper to arrest him even after the KDC conviction on the drug peddling case. He also claimed that he still has not moved the Patan Appellate Court with an appeal under Clause 26 of the Government Case Act 1992 challenging the KDC verdict.