Smart idea

Chief Justice (CJ) Dilip Kumar Paudel, whose resignation or impeachment is being demanded by various quarters, has hit upon a smart idea of seeking to avoid this eventuality by proposing to demand, instead, the resignation of ad hoc judge Pawan Kumar Ojha, appointed to the Supreme Court during the King’s direct rule. He made this idea known to lawyers of the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) at an emergency meeting called by the Supreme Court one day after a number of MPs of the major political parties called for the resignation of Paudel and Ojha, or Paudel’s impeachment on the grounds that they were ‘incompetent’ and ‘agents of regression’. Paudel is reported to have told lawyers that he now feels the need to reconsider the manner in which Ojha was appointed. Paudel aimed to persuade lawyers to urge politicians not to impeach him. The lawyers have been boycotting all programmes attended by the CJ.

Generally, a person tries to avoid leaving high office, that, too, under pressure. CJ Paudel must have acted from that instinct. But at the same time, the CJ is supposed to be a person of moral and professional integrity against which no finger may be raised as he heads an institution which is solely entrusted with interpreting the Constitution. Obviously, the public expects their CJ to be a beacon of virtue and to uphold the Constitution and justice against all odds, even where politicians fail. But unfortunately, CJ Paudel like all his predecessors since October 4, 2002, has been widely seen, even by the legal community, to have failed to live up to that role.

Indeed, the Supreme Court had unanimously upheld the dissolution recommended by the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, but when Deuba failed to hold the promised elections, the apex court could do nothing to prevent a situation not envisaged by the Constitution, and it easily went along with the royal rule. Moreover, it even failed to hear a review petition seeking the restoration of the House for more than three and a half years, letting the King eventually restore it through a political decision under the tremendous pressure of the mass movement. Like some of his predecessors, Paudel had also pledged to open the House restoration case. Besides, some people have also questioned the legality of his appointment for its recourse to the controversial use of Article 127. It gives cause for worry about the judiciary that CJ Paudel has sought a political horse trade to save the two years of his remaining judicial tenure, that, too, by proposing to seek the resignation of a judge who was appointed on the very recommendation of the Judicial Council, which Paudel headed. These are totally new times, and the present House and the government are there to see to the writing of an entirely new constitution through constituent assembly. Given the circumstances he is in, Paudel would do himself, and the entire judciary, a service by heeding the call of the MPs. The sooner, the better.