Robinson’s release

Two Supreme Court (SC) judges are in the eye of a storm in the wake of the revocation of the Special Court’s order relating to a 17-year-jail term and a Rs 1 million fine on the British druglord Gordon W Robinson. Justices Krishna Kumar Barma and Baliram Kumar acquitted the Briton, following which the duo have been asked by Chief Justice Govinda Bahadur Shrestha to submit the full text of their judgment. The verdict has been deemed “controversial” in knowledgeable quarters. Now that the Royal Palace too has been said to be irked by Gordon’s acquittal, legal experts are confused over what possible action could possibly be taken in this regard in the absence of the House of Representatives. The Constitution clearly states that a SC judge can be impeached only by a two-thirds majority of the House.

It is a remarkable provision that requires not a simple but a two-thirds majority of the House. This requirement, when judged against the provision that a simple majority is enough to send prime minister packing serves to highlight the importance of placing justices well beyond the reach of individuals or other external influences. By the definition itself, “justice has to be just, fair and competent.” And there cannot be a better way of staying out of any kind of external influences as the honourable justices carry out their duties. While the judges of the Appellate and District Courts can be probed and admonished by the Judicial Council, justices of the apex court can be referred to the House only after a probe at the Council’s level. These are times when the executive and legislative institutions are virtually defunct in the absence of the House and the judiciary is only the sacrosanct institution where the relics of the former two frequently turn to seeking advice on constitutional issues. Therefore, absence of the provision to take any action against a SC justice under the current scheme of things, should a need arise — as it seems to have with Robinson’s case — would blemish “the highest temple of justice.”

If anything, the aforesaid question once again underlines the need for putting the constitutional process back on track and restore the House through a free and fair vote. But for now, as the former Attorney General Sarbagya Ratna Tuladhar says, a probe by an authorised body into why the druglord was acquitted would diminish the pressure built within the ring of speculation and doubt regarding the Briton’s premature release. Without an authoritative provision to countercheck the conduct of justice dispensers, whatever the circumstances, one cannot always assume them to possess an impeccable character and integrity. The concept of rule of law will then have been compromised.