PHC meeting put off for second time

Whatever the reason behind the deferral, it is against the principle of independence of judiciary, as it is meant to pressure the CJ nominee

Kathmandu, July 29

The Parliamentary Hearing Committee, which was supposed to confirm or reject Chief Justice nominee Deepak Raj Joshee today, postponed the meeting for the second time.  On Friday, the panel had postponed the meeting till 8:00 am today. The next meeting of the panel has been scheduled for tomorrow. This is the first time in recent years that PHC meeting has been deferred for the second time after conducting its hearing.

A member of the panel, Niru Devi Pal, who represents the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP),   said members held a brief informal meeting today and decided to postpone the meeting till Monday for two reasons:  they wanted more time to study the documents and two other members of the panel — Jitendra Narayan Dev and Pushpa Bhusal of the Nepali Congress — were absent.

Another PHC member, Suman Raj Pyakurel, who represents NCP (NCP),  said panel members were of the view that it would be better if CJ confirmation decision was taken unanimously and the meeting was attended by all 15 members of the panel.

He said the majority of the panel members were not satisfied by Joshee’s answers on Thursday. “There are some members who think that the kind of vision and commitment a CJ nominee should express in the PHC hearing did not come from him,” he said.

Pyakurel said there were some members who were trying to find a solution that could satisfy the members who were not satisfied with Joshee’s answers.

“What we are doing is not to reject CJ nominee but to find an adequate solution to the problem,” Pyakurel said and added that the panel could summon Joshee again for another hearing.

He said although the separation of powers was at play all the time, there should also be cooperation between three organs of the state.

“There are members in the PHC who believe that the Supreme Court had created an obstacle in the government’s plan to collect revenue, particularly in cases involving Ncell and casinos. There are also members who believe that the court’s verdicts favoured people who wanted to capture public land,” he added.

PHC member Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, who represents the Nepali Congress, said while the delay in taking a decision to confirm or reject the CJ nominee might not be called unnatural, the delay could, however, raise questions on the ability of the PHC. “We are discussing issues in a way that is different from issues raised in the media,” Karki said without elaborating.

Some media reports had stated that the PHC meeting was postponed at the order of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is also the chair of the ruling NCP (NCP). Karki said the PHC would take a call tomorrow.

Constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya said there could be three reasons why  PHC was delaying its confirmation decision: the panel was not satisfied with the answers given by  Acting CJ Joshee in the PHC hearing, it wants more time to investigate the issues or it is facing political pressure.

“Whatever the reason behind the deferral, it is against the principle of independence of the judiciary, as it is meant to pressure the CJ nominee. It is like forcing the CJ nominee to cave in to pressure,” Acharya added.