Right to reason

The Nepal Bar Association (NBA) on Tuesday agreed to dump its protest programme against the alleged failure of the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution. The agreement followed a three-hour debate between the SC and the NBA. The NBA was up in arms against Friday’s SC ruling in which the apex court did not think it necessary to issue a stay order against a widely condemned government ordinance that has put a ban on news broadcasts by FM stations and certain curbs on the media. Indeed, the NBA has not been happy with the apex court the way it has discharged its constitutional duty of interpreting the Constitution, for example, with the SC’s indecision which has kept pending for more than three years a vitally important review petition seeking the restoration of the dissolved Lower House.

In a joint statement issued after the agreement, both the SC and the NBA expressed their commitment to uphold the supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law and fundamental rights of the citizen. According to the now dropped protest programme, the NBA was to have made a nationwide boycott of the court proceedings yesterday. On Sunday the lawyers had organised a sit-in in the SC premises to protest against the SC’s failure to issue a stay order on the media ordinance. This is the second time the SC has made such a commitment in the wake of the NBA’s protests; the last was in 1998 when the NBA had launched a campaign in protest against corruption in the judiciary.

The confrontation between the Bar and the Supreme Court is by no means a healthy sign

for the nation’s judiciary. Ideally, this situation should never arise. But in Nepal, the NBA and the apex court, particularly after the February 1 royal step, seem to have been experiencing an uneasy relationship. Both are supposed to be above politics and committed to the Constitution and the law. However, some people think that the NBA has sometimes given the impression of having a political bend, while the SC, it is increasingly being perceived, has failed to live up to its supreme duty of upholding the Constitution itself, as the present constitutional crisis in the country demonstrates, and to prevent or stop the overarching executive encroachments on the legal regime. This wide perception about the performance of the judiciary, including that among most of the nation’s legal brains, gives powerful reasons to examine the recent role of the judiciary. It would be best if the judges themselves did the soul-searching.