Dissident justices of the Supreme Court drew lotteries to conduct hearing of all types of cases, but they could not do so as the Nepal Bar Association continued to protest against Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana, demanding that senior-most Justice Deepak Kumar Karki assume the charge of acting chief justice till CJ Rana, who is down with COVID-19 and is hospitalised, undergoes treatment.

Today, NBA President Chandeswhor Shrestha and Supreme Court Bar Association President Purna Man Shakya talked to dissident justices and asked the senior-most justice to act as chief justice, but dissident justices did not agree to their proposal.

A Supreme Court source said there were divergent opinions about the circumstances when the senior-most justice could automatically take charge as CJ. "This kind of situation never arose in the past. Some justices say that it is not clear who - the CJ himself, the hospital where the CJ is undergoing treatment, the senior-most justice, or any of the other justices - could declare that CJ Rana is not able to perform his duty due to his illness," the SC source said.

Because of this confusion, neither dissident justices advised Justice Karki to act as CJ nor did Justice Karki decide to play the role of an acting CJ. According to the SC source, dissident justices said the court would have to make security arrangements for Karki to act as CJ.

The source said dissident justices were thinking of taking a call on the issue of acting CJ, but today Justice Hari Krishna Karki talked to Rana over the phone and the CJ said he would be discharged tomorrow and would work from home from tomorrow. "If the CJ is discharged tomorrow, he could do administrative work from his residence as had happened in the past also, but not other duties," the source added.

NBA Vice-president Rakshya Basyal said if the CJ returns to office tomorrow, then either the news of his contracting COVID-19 was false or he was trying to violate the COVID-19 protocol that requires the COVID-19 sufferers to spend at least 10 days in isolation.

The NBA has been protesting against the CJ for almost a month, accusing him of seeking to appoint his brother-in-law a minister in the Sher Bahadur Deuba Cabinet and delaying the hearing of cases filed against appointments to constitutional bodies.

Meanwhile, the ruling alliance's coordination committee held a meeting today and suggested that the CJ delegate power to the senior-most justice of the SC to act as CJ till he remains hospitalised.

Rastriya Janamorcha lawmaker Durga Paudel, who attended the ruling alliance's panel meeting today, said the alliance partners were conscious of not doing anything that could be termed as an interference in the judiciary, but the alliance asked Rana to allow the senior-most justice to act as CJ.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 3, 2021 of The Himalayan Times.