EDITORIAL: Promote meritocracy

Why judicial recommendations create a hullaballoo every time is that a proper process of appointment acceptable to all is not followed

The Judicial Council has recommended five justices for the Supreme Court and 18 judges for the high courts but not without fanning some controversy. Of the Supreme Court nominees, two are career judges and the other three are advocates. Before being appointed to the high posts, they now need to be approved by the Parliamentary Hearing Committee. There are allegations that the recommendations were not based on meritocracy, but were picked based on political bhagbanda (sharing) and family ties. And when such allegations are made by senior advocates of the country, there is room to believe in them. There is even a demand for a review of the verdicts given by the judges on certain cases. Among the judges recommended for the high courts, at least three had landed in controversy following complaints filed against them in the Judicial Council, alleging poor justice delivery. There are also complaints that the recommendations are not inclusive.

There is room for speculation about whether the due process of meritocracy was followed in recommending the names. Of the five Supreme Court nominees, one is said to be close to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, while another is a nephew of for a former chief justice. Still another is a sympathiser of the Nepali Congress. Among the high court judge nominees, two are daughters of former SC justices and one is the ex-leader of the UML-aligned student union. The outcome of the judicial investigation into the three judges for their controversial verdicts was never made public, which could have prevented them from being nominated and saved the judiciary from the unnecessary altercation. This is not the first time judicial recommendations or appointments have generated controversy, actually it does so every time. Even former Chief Justice Sushila Karki, known for her integrity and fearlessness, had drawn flak when she appointed 80 judges to the lower courts.

Despite the allegations made against the recommendations, let us still give the benefit of the doubt to the nominees for the Supreme Court justices and high court judges. There is no reason to believe that just because they are related to the high and mighty and have political connections, they are not competent. But it would be totally wrong if they have been recommended solely on the basis of their family or party connections, as this could affect the verdict in political cases. The Judiciary is a highly revered institution, and any attempt to lower its esteem and weaken its independence and autonomy by trying to bring it under parliamentary control is deplorable. Having incompetent or tainted judges in the courts will only lower the trust of the common people in the Judiciary, and it will be hard for them to own the verdicts handed out. This, in turn, will perpetuate a cycle of corruption and incompetency in the courts. One of the reasons why judicial recommendations create a hullaballoo every time is that a proper process of appointment acceptable to all is not followed. It would, thus, be in the interest of both the political parties and those in the judiciary to work for an independent judiciary that is held in high esteem by the public for its integrity and sound verdicts.

Leave no child behind

The brick kilns across the country have earned notoriety for using children as labourers, although the laws impose a total ban on employing them in hazardous work, detrimental to their health, physical growth and education. A report from Bhaktapur states that 49 brick kilns, out of a total of 64, are employing children in the labour force, violating the Labour Act and Child Labour Act.

According to an evidence-based research, the children working in the brick kilns often become victims of child marriage, defamation, sexual abuse and accidental death. Police said 12 children had drowned in the pits dug at the site of the brick kilns in the last two years. This is a very serious issue the law enforcement agency must tend to without fail. The government should take legal action against the brick kiln operators for employing child labourers. Migrant parents should be encouraged to send their kids to school. As we already have the local governments in place, they should regularly inspect those hazardous work places and make sure that no child is left behind from getting an education, basic health care and proper sanitation. Every child has a right to a decent life.