EDITORIAL: Judge’s hearing

If Joshee is on the wrong side, he should face legal action, but from PHC members, independent decisions are expected

After serving for 22 years in the Appellate Court and four years in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice nominee, Deepak Raj Joshee, was rejected on Friday by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee (PHC), labelling him being “not qualified” to lead the judiciary. The 15-member PHC rejected Joshee’s nomination by a two-thirds majority – all from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and Federal Socialist Forum Nepal – amidst a boycott by four lawmakers from the main opposition Nepali Congress. This is the first time that a CJ nominee has been rejected by the PHC, a provision that was introduced in the Interim Constitution in 2007 and given continuity even in the new constitution to make nominations of justices for the Supreme Court, constitutional bodies and ambassadorship fair and transparent. While rejecting Joshee’s nomination as CJ, the PHC alleged that Joshee failed to present his work plan and vision to lead the judiciary, that he failed to give satisfactory answers to the questions posed by lawmakers about his conduct, integrity and capability, that his academic certificates (SLC or equivalent) were “dubious”, and that even former justices had censured his past performances.

Besides the main opposition, the Nepal Bar Association and a section of legal luminaries have termed “subjective, biased and attack on judiciary” the PHC’s decision to overturn the Constitutional Council’s recommendation of Joshee, the seniormost justice from among the three recommended by the Judicial Council for the post of chief justice. Some constitutional experts and lawmakers from the main opposition have aired apprehension that PHC’s decision would set a bad precedent, forcing the judiciary into submission to the executive and legislature. They have even questioned the rationale of the PHC. The PHC which is now fully controlled by the ruling NCP and FSF-N lawmakers should have scrutinised Joshee’s credentials, his track records, conduct and performances with proven facts before deciding to reject his nomination.

Following his rejection by the PHC, Joshee has now gone on a 15-day leave. On Saturday, he issued a statement demanding his academic certificate, which the PHC termed “dubious”, be independently verified by a competent authority. He has every right to raise this demand. Nobody – let alone an elected body like the PHC – has the right to raise any misgivings about the authenticity of someone’s academic certificate without having any hard proof. As such, Joshee now despite being rejected seems to be in a position to enjoy benefit of the doubt. The parliamentary body had ample time – more than a week – to verify as to whether Joshee’s certificate was forged. Parliament also has the right to impeach him if he should be, and if that had to be done, PHC members should have come up with a strong report. If Joshee is on the wrong side, he should face action. All in all, it so looks that PHC members fell short of taking independent decisions and looked up to the party high command to arrive at a decision. Such incidents neither strengthen judiciary, nor the hearing committee.

Fighting rubella

Rubella, an acute, contagious viral infection, is the leading vaccine-preventable cause of birth defects. It occurs in children and young adults. Rubella infection in pregnant women may cause foetal death or congenital defects known as congenital rubella syndrome. Nepal has made a significant stride in her fight against the disease by introducing rubella virus and expanding the coverage. The World Health Organisation has certified Nepal, along with five other countries in the South Asia Region, for controlling rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, two years ahead of the target year 2020.

Vaccination is the key to saving lives of children. The Nepal government currently provides vaccines to protect against 11 diseases, including rubella through the country’s National Immunisation Programme. Maternal and neonatal tetanus was eliminated in 2005 in Nepal while the country achieved polio-free status in 2014, thanks largely to extended vaccination efforts. By 2019, Nepal aims to eliminate measles through vaccination. Immunisation is the right of every child and concerted efforts are a must to expand the coverage. The efforts so far have been fruitful and they need to be sustained.