If the CJ is forced to resign under undue pressure, it will set a bad precedent in the entire judiciary and justice system

Three weeks after the Supreme Court justices and Nepal Bar Association (NBA) as well as Supreme Court Bar Association refused to conduct hearing of cases and share benches with Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana over the latter's involvement in seeking a share in the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led coalition cabinet, six justices of the apex court started hearing all types of cases from Tuesday. Justices Tej Bahadur KC, Bam Kumar Shrestha, Kumar Chudal, Kumar Regmi, Manoj Kumar Sharma and Prakash Kumar Dhungana broke ranks with the agitating justices and conducted hearing of all types of cases. This is a clear indication that there is a fissure among the agitating justices and NBA lawyers, who have been seeking Rana's ouster for his role in seeking a cabinet berth for his brother-in-law, who later stepped down within 40 hours of his appointment as minister following widespread criticism from the public. However, CJ Rana has refused to step down, saying he would leave office only through the due process of the constitution.

It means he should be impeached by the federal parliament with a two-thirds majority to oust him from office. On Tuesday, CJ Rana did not form his own bench, but listed 279 cases for hearing under different benches.

Other justices who have been boycotting the hearing are now in a precarious situation because of the differences among themselves. Some of the justices are in favour of implementing Justice Hari Krishna Karki's report, which has called for switching to a lottery system or automated system to assign cases in all courts to end the influence of middlemen in the judiciary. If this system is implanted in the apex court, it will curtail the privilege of the Chief Justice. Other justices, who are in the line of becoming the CJ after Rana's retirement, are learnt to be against the lottery system, which CJ Rana is now ready to execute. But it needs to make changes in the existing apex court rules, for which the Supreme Court's full court must convene chaired by CJ Rana himself. The rules must also be approved by the cabinet before it comes into operation. But the agitating justices have refused to take part in the full court meeting.

Whatever the reason may be, the apex court, which is the ultimate abode of justice, cannot afford to remain dysfunctional for a long period of time, and the agitating justices have already faced the public wrath for boycotting the hearing of cases, a move that has caused immense hardship to the justice seekers. If the CJ refuses to budge under pressure from his own colleagues and the NBA, the only way out of this impasse is to file an impeachment motion against Rana in the parliament. So, the role of the political parties in the parliament is crucial. But Prime Minister Deuba is not interested in impeaching the CJ, fearing that it might open a Pandora's box, which might go against him as he was part of a quid pro quo when he appointed CJ's brother-in-law as minister for the apex court's favourable verdict. So, it will be in the best interest of all if the ongoing row is resolved from within the apex court. If the CJ is forced to resign under undue pressure, it will set a bad precedent in the judiciary and entire justice system.

Bajura's woes

It is rare for the media to report anything positive about Bajura in Sudurpaschim Province. Development has eluded the district that has seen one misfortune after another in recent times. Unseasonal rains, followed by landslides and floods, destroyed property and crops in different villages in October this year. A month after the rains, cracks are starting to appear in Muktikot Village of Swamikartik Khapar Rural Municipality, putting as many as 51 families at high risk of landslides. The villagers, who already face an acute food crisis due to destruction of crops, now have something else to worry about as well.

According to the CDO, the 300 people of the village need to be relocated immediately, but this is not feasible.

With climate change becoming a reality, the country will be seeing many more adverse weather conditions, putting more and more people at risk of unexpected natural disasters. The responsibility naturally falls on the government to build safe settlements, which calls for proper planning. Allowing haphazard development of villages and urban centres will only add to the woes of the people. It is high time the authorities took things seriously and not waited until a disaster has struck to take action.

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