Judicial reforms not easy task

KATHMANDU: Despite his commitment to initiate the process of judicial reform in the three-month tenure, lawyer-turned-Chief Justice Anup Raj Sharma has a myriad of hurdles ahead that may not help change his dreams into reality.

After spending the first week in receiving congratulations, CJ Sharma has now just three months and a week before he retires.

"He cannot even change the hearing date of a single case because they have already been scheduled for next six months," an SC justice told The Himalayan Times on condition of anonymity.

"The CJ has commitment to fight against corruption. But it seems unconvincing due to his short tenure. Besides, the CJ cannot do anything alone under the existing mechanism," said Sarvagya Ratna Tuladhar, former Attorney General.

Although the CJ is the ex-officio chairman of the Judicial Council, he cannot work unilaterally when taking action against a "corrupt judge". Unless he garners support from the other ex-officio members -- senior SC justice, Law Minister, PM's representative and NBA representative in the JC -- he can do nothing against any judge.

Retiring CJ Min Bahadur Rayamajhi had the same commitment to take action against "tainted judges", but his too remained only a plan due to the complex mechanism in the judiciary and his six-month short tenure.

Despite his bid to form a complaint hearing section under his chamber in the SC, Rayamajhi was not able to take action against any judge for corruption.

During the parliamentary hearing on December 10, CJ Sharma had also expressed his commitment to end the culture of delayed justice. But reform is unlikely unless the parliament amends the existing legal provision which is the major hurdle in delivering prompt justice.

"His bid in this regard cannot come into reality unless the parliament passes new Acts and amend the existing ones," Tuladhar said. "He, however, can be successful in setting up information mechanism as groundwork to this effect is already underway in the SC."

Since Sharma already missed his first deadline to set up a panel to hold study and make strategy against corruption in the judiciary, which was supposed to be done within a week beginning December 13 after he assumed the top judicial post, it is hard to believe that he will be able to do something against corruption and irregularities in the judiciary in such a short tenure.

"Even the formation of such panel will be unconstitutional. It is wrong idea of the CJ to form such panel instead of empowering the existing JC which is a constitutional provision," the justice said, concluding, "Such an act will be a breach of the Constitution as well."