The controversy surrounding the CJ's alleged wrongdoings raises questions about the integrity of the judiciary

The resignation by the newly-appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Gajendra Bahadur Hamal, on the eve of the Dashain holidays was intended to put to rest the controversy surrounding his induction into the Cabinet. But has it? Instead the media and the civil society are demanding that Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana be impeached for allegedly lobbying Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to induct the CJ's brother-inlaw, Hamal, into the Cabinet in exchange for the Supreme Court's verdict on the House of Representatives (HoR) dissolution case that landed Deuba the prime minister's post. And the way the leaders in the current coalition government stood behind Hamal's appointment only raises the suspicion that there was some bargaining between CJ Rana and Deuba to influence the verdict on the case. Unable to face the serious allegations, Hamal had no option other than to put in his papers to save not only the government but also the Chief Justice from further embarrassment.

Hamal might have continued as minister had it not been for the brouhaha created by the media and civil society members, who also questioned why a non-member of the HoR was appointed a minister.

In the previous NCP government too, Yuba Raj Khatiwada was made Minister of Finance, but no one had made any fuss about his appointment. Khatiwada, however, was an intellectual. Hamal has no such credentials, either political or academic. The accusations made by the media against CJ Rana, although refuted by the Supreme Court, has done enough damage to the image of the judiciary, with people starting to question if the July 12 verdict on the HoR dissolution case was at all fair. The SC had ruled that the president should appoint Deuba as the prime minister as he had the support of the majority members of the House. The CPN-UML insists Deuba was appointed the PM due to a court order and not because he had the people's mandate. CJ Rana, as a member of the Constitutional Council, also faces accusations of having appointed cronies to different constitutional bodies, in collusion with then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who had introduced an ordinance to lower the quorum required for the constitutional council meetings.

The controversy surrounding the CJ's alleged wrongdoings, never seen or heard before, raises serious questions about the integrity of the judiciary in Nepal, and calls for strong action against the CJ and other members of the five-member constitutional bench that gave the verdict if proved they had done wrong. There are allegations that some other judges were also seeking high posts in exchange for a favourable verdict. A serious discussion must now be started in the House and elsewhere to see how the independence of the judiciary can be maintained. Dismissing the current media accusations against the CJ simply because his verdict has favoured the present coalition government would prove counterproductive in the long run. These are dangerous trends that must be nipped in the bud, otherwise we will be seeing similar overtures from other quarters. Any attempt by the judiciary and others to influence the executive branch of the state would be most unfortunate for Nepal's democracy.

Work in two shifts

The government has been drawing flak for not being able to spend the capital expenditure as envisaged by the government thanks to the dilly-dallying approach of the contractors who win the government contract through a bidding process. Non-utilisation of the capital expenditure not only creates unemployment problems but also hampers overall economic growth. The government is the largest investor in the public sector that helps generate jobs for tens of thousands of people within the country.

In order to increase the spending capacity of the capital expenditure, Finance Minister Janardan Sharmahas told the contractors to work in double shifts so that a government project could be completed on time, giving a boost to the national economy. If the Finance Minister's plan were to be implemented, the contractors are required to enhance their working capacity. The government has set a target of achieving 7 per cent economic growth in the replacement budget. The idea of working in double shifts in any government project is a welcome move as it will help complete the projects on time. At the same time, the government needs to test the real capacity of a contractor before awarding any government project to it.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.