The controversy surrounding the CJ demands far-reaching reforms before the trust of the common people in the Judiciary starts waning

Even as the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) mounts pressure on Chief Justice Chholendra Shumsher Rana to step down for alleged wrong-doing, jurists are of the opinion that his resignation alone would not bring the much-needed reforms in the Judiciary and would require rectifying flaws not only in the prevailing laws but also in the constitution. The CJ faces a dilemma as the NBA has launched protests against him at the Supreme Court beginning Sunday to force him to quit and also asked him not to sit on any bench. Given the ruckus, Supreme Court hearings on cases have been stalled since Monday. But at the moment, the CJ would rather face an impeachment in the parliament than quit, knowing fully well that the parties in the government stand behind him as they have benefitted by his February 23 controversial verdict on the House of Representatives (HoR) dissolution case. CJ Rana has been at the centre of a controversy for allegedly having reached a secret understanding with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to include his brother-in-law in the council of ministers in exchange for a favourable verdict on the dissolved HoR case that landed Deuba the prime minister's post. Rana is also accused of delaying hearing of cases filed against appointments of his near and dear ones to constitutional bodies under the previous government.

It is apparent that a number of structural reforms will be necessary to maintain the separation of powers or judicial independence.

The parliamentary hearing system for the appointment of the chief justice and other justices, though introduced in good faith, has been seen to be largely responsible for the political interference in the Judiciary.

There is a tendency of the nominees to lobby the hearing committee members, who are mostly from the ruling party, to secure their appointment. The composition of the Judicial Council is just as faulty, in which the Judiciary has just two representatives, namely the Chief Justice and a senior-most justice of the Supreme Court. Whereas the remaining three members – minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, one nominee of the prime minister and one nominee from the NBA – are chosen by the executive.

Thus, unless judges form the majority in the Judicial Council, the executive will have a grip on the Judiciary.

On the other hand, to prevent any quid pro quo between the executive and the Judiciary, it is necessary to drop the CJ as a member of the CC that makes appointments to constitutional bodies.

The controversy surrounding the CJ has done enough damage to the image of the Judiciary and demands far-reaching reforms before the trust of the common people in it starts waning. The Supreme Court Bar Association has said that it would form a committee to identity flaws in the laws and the constitution to prevent any quid pro quo between the Judiciary and the executive, and a team would prepare a report within two months. When the report is out, hopefully the government and the parties will amend the laws as demanded in the best interest of the nation.

But at the end of the day, regardless of whatever reforms are introduced, integrity of the stakeholders is central to improving anything.

Take official permit

With the rescue of an additional 32 Nepalis stranded in war-torn Afghanistan, the number of Nepalis who have been evacuated from there has reached 940. They were rescued with the coordination of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi. First they were flown to Iran from Afghanistan, and then they flew to Qatar on Saturday. The rescued Nepalis were scattered throughout Kabul and were provided a safe place in small groups before their evacuation. MoFA said the rescued Nepalis entered Afghanistan through unofficial channels without securing foreign employment permit from the government.

It is not clear how many Nepalis are still stranded in the war-ravaged country, which was swiftly taken over by the Taliban following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Many Nepalis go to troubled countries taking advantage of the porous border with India. So, it is difficult to ascertain the actual number of them in foreign lands. The Nepal government should tell its citizens not to go to troubled countries without first letting the government know about their foreign destinations.

It will be easy to rescue our citizens in times of crisis if they go there via official channels.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 1, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.