Warped logic

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala often speaks of higher things, and, at the head of the interim government, he also talks of building a new Nepal. At the recent Mahasamiti meeting, he spoke, as party president, of the Congress leading the post-monarchy Nepal. The Congress, or for that matter any other political party, might get a chance to lead such a government. But the attitude, reminiscent of the past days of unsatisfactory governance, shown at

present to the appointment of people to highly important public posts does not provide solid grounds for believing that power will necessarily be

accompanied with good governance. The latest case refers to the pending appointment of a new Chief Justice since Dilip Kumar Paudel retired from the post on September 7 — Kedar Prasad Giri, first in seniority among the Supreme Court judges, has been acting as Chief Justice. This long vacancy is a matter of great public concern.

The main point is that the Constitutional Council (CC) chaired by the Prime Minister should have made a fresh decision after Giri, its nominee for CJ, was rejected by the 11-9 parliamentary hearing special committee (PHSC) vote against him on the basis of the charges which were deemed serious and tenable. For the sake of the judiciary’s image as well as for his own, the best thing for Giri would have been to bow out of the race in the face of this lack of confidence in him. But as he has not, the Constitutional Council should have given another judge, next in seniority, a chance to win the trust of the hearing panel. On the contrary, as reports say, Giri will probably be confirmed as CJ. If this happened, it would not only deliver a serious blow to the already unenviable public reputation of the Nepali judiciary, and but also constitute an insult to the parliament. It would also give the people the impression that the parliamentary hearing process is just the veil thrown over the people’s eyes to give a semblance of good governance.

Attorney general Yagya Murti Banjade has advised the PM in writing to appoint Giri, because, according to him, there are no legal grounds for not doing so. His further argument is that, legally, unanimous acceptance or rejection by the panel is required for a candidate’s automatic confirmation or disqualification from the post. The question is not one of a particular candidate, or of the mere legalistic angle. Banjade’s argument derives from the mistaken notion that just because a judge has not been removed through impeachment in the parliament, he or she should automatically qualify to head the judiciary. If this argument were to be accepted, there would be no justification at all for retaining the hearing panel at the taxpayers’ expense. The issue involved is one of higher values — ethics and public perception. Besides, if the Prime Minister confirmed him as CJ despite the hearing panel’s vote, Nepal’s CJ would be personally obliged to the head of the executive. This may seriously affect the independence of the judiciary. A judge, and the chief justice, should be, like Caesar’s wife, above suspicion.