NBA protest continues as senior-most justice not in charge in the absence of chief justice


The Supreme Court today launched the lottery-based cause list for the first time, but lawyers, did not take part in the hearing process after the Nepal Bar Association objected to non-delegation of power to the senior most justice in the absence of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana. Rana has been hospitalised after contracting COVID.

NBA Vice-president Rakshya Basyal said the lawyers' umbrella body continued to boycott case hearings today as well because of the constitutional crisis in the SC. "Overseeing of the cause list preparation should be done by the senior most justice of the SC in the absence of the CJ. Since the CJ remains hospitalised, he is required by the constitution to delegate his powers to the senior most justice. But he did not do so today," she said.

NBA General Secretary Lilamani Paudel said as per Article 129 of the constitution, Senior-most Justice Deepak Kumar Karki was supposed to act as an acting CJ today since Rana has been hospitalised, but no one signed the cause list today.

"Court officials told us that the cause list was formalised by CJ Rana. How can that happen when Rana is undergoing treatment for COVID-19?" Paudel wondered.

Article 129 (6) stipulates: If the office of the chief justice falls vacant or the chief justice is unable to carry out duties of his or her office by reason of illness or otherwise or s/he cannot be present in the Supreme Court by reason of a leave of absence or his or her being outside Nepal, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court shall act as the acting chief justice.

Paudel said there was a constitutional crisis at the SC as the judicial body was without the chief justice today.

Basyal said SC justices who were preparing to hear all types of cases from today, complied with their request to boycott hearing of cases other than habeas corpus writ petitions, case withdrawal petitions and reconciliation cases. Yesterday, the NBA had issued a press release warning Rana against drawing lotteries or forming his own bench. It also warned apex court justices against sharing the bench with the CJ.

The NBA has been protesting against the CJ for almost a month now for allegedly 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. The NBA has also blamed Rana for stalling judicial reforms, including automation-based cause list as suggested by the Justice Hari Krishna Karki-led committee.

Dissident justices were also protesting against Rana in the face of these accusations and controversy, but they agreed to conduct hearing of all types of cases from today after the SC decided to go for the lottery-based cause list.

Meanwhile, NBA officials and some senior advocates met CPN-Maoist Centre Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and briefed him about the rationale of their protest demanding Rana's resignation.

Basyal said they submitted their memorandum listing 17 reasons why it sought Rana's exit. Dahal said he had been discussing the issue in the ruling coalition and assured that he would help find a way out very soon. "Dahal's body language hinted that he would back our demands for the CJ's resignation," Basyal added.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 2, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.