EDITORIAL: Wheels of justice

An empowered and independent judiciary strengthens the foundation of democracy and keeps the wheels of justice turning

The Supreme Court in its annual report for 2017/18 has once again raised the issue of ever growing workload and lack of employees and resources. With the new civil and penal codes in place, the apex court says, the workload has further increased. As per the annual report, SC’s adjudication rate stands at 37.96 per cent. The high pendency rate at the court makes people feel they are deprived of justice. So, the apex court is right in saying it needs to be equipped with staff and other resources. The SC says it faces budget constraints as well. “Due to lack of predictability of budget, the apex court’s activities and overall plans are being affected,” the SC has noted. But just as SC has brought forth its grievances, it is of utmost importance to discuss some other crucial issues, which often put a spoke in the judiciary’s wheel.

There have been a lot of discussions of late over the independence of the judiciary and political interference in the judicial system. Time and again issues of irregularities and corruption in the judiciary also have surfaced. Some judgments have met with fierce criticisms, even from those who are — and were — part of the judiciary. Former chief justices have admitted presence of irregularities in the judiciary. These are indeed very serious issues. Every time a new chief justice has assumed office, we have heard promises of “cleaning up” the judiciary and making judicial process swift and efficient. But problems continue to persist. High profile cases remain pending for years. In some cases interim orders have been swiftly issued. There have also been reports of manipulation with the cause list — a system that schedules cases to be heard on a particular day. Some with power, position and money, reports suggest, even try to “pick and choose” the bench.

Against this backdrop, insufficient number of employees and lack of resources are not only the problems Nepal’s judiciary is facing. There are other underlying problems which need to be addressed. The judiciary is considered the third branch of a democratic government system with the legislature and the executive being the first two. In simple terms, the basic model is: the legislature makes the laws, the executive administers/executes them, and the judiciary — the system of courts — resolves disputes arising under them. Courts are important because they help protect the citizens’ constitutional rights. Courts set the foundation of democracy and create a climate for its growth. The Supreme Court sits on the top of the entire judicial system and hence is revered as a great institution. Its independence ensures justice, guarantees liberty, enhances social order and maintains the rule of law, thereby providing equal protection to all the citizens. When this great institution suffers, the entire nation and its citizenry suffer. Hence it’s the state’s duty to keep the judiciary free and equip it with all the resources. While the state must pay heed to the SC’s call to empower it, the judiciary also needs to do its bit to keep itself free from interference and rid itself of irregularities, if there are any. Problems facing the judiciary must be resolved to ensure that the wheels of justice continue to roll.

Assist the victims

Reconstruction process in some hilly districts has not gained momentum at desired level even if it has been more than three years since the 2015 earthquake. A report from Bhojpur says only 108 earthquake victim families have received the third tranche of grant provided by the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA). As per the NRA record, there are as many as 5,749 quake victims in the district. Of them 5,065 families have received the first instalment and 2,236 beneficiaries have taken the second one.

Locals said they were denied the third tranche after district-based NRA officials refused to approve the houses they rebuilt saying they did not meet the criteria set by the NRA. This problem would not have arisen had the concerned authorities monitored

the rebuilding process from the very beginning. The NRA officials cannot deny the third tranche to the victims even if they did not meet the criteria as the NRA has already disbursed the first and second tranches to them without giving them guidelines about rebuilding houses. Instead of creating unnecessary problems NRA filed office should help ease the rebuilding process.