By Our Reporter
In yet another dramatic incident of last week, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the impeachment motion paving path for suspended Chief Justice Sushila Karki to resume her office in five days.
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday issued an interim order against the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Karki and directed the Legislature-Parliament to put the motion on hold.
A single-bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana had issued the order preventing the parliament from moving ahead the impeachment motion in the parliament.
Karki, who was suspended following the surprise registration of the impeachment motion by 249 lawmakers of the ruling Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre returned to the court on Friday. However, she resumed work only from Sunday.
With the precedent-setting apex court order, the ruling Nepali Congress-Maoist Centre alliance, which had drawn flak from several quarters for its ill-intended move to impeach the chief justice, has come under immense pressure. The NC and Maoist leaders termed the order as an interference of Judiciary in the jurisdiction of the sovereign parliament.
Responding to a writ petition filed by advocates Sunil Ranjan Singh and Kanchan Krishna Neupane, a single bench of Justice Rana stayed the impeachment motion, saying “The move to impeach the chief justice is against the spirit of the Constitution of Nepal”.
It appears that the impeachment motion was brought in relation to an apex court order on the appointment of chief of Nepal Police, which is sub judice in this court, but the move, prima facie, is against the spirit of the constitution, the bench observed. “Hence, as per Rule 41 (1) of the Supreme Court Regulations, the court orders the defendants to put the impeachment motion on hold until a final decision on this petition that seeks to stay the issue,” the bench added.
The ruling coalition’s move to impeach Karki had met with severe criticism from several quarters, with many accusing it of attacking the independence of the judiciary.
In his order, which also included his emotional note, Justice Rana said that he felt weak, sad and restless after the registration of the impeachment.
“I have realised that all justices of this institution have been found sad from the day this impeachment motion was registered. This should be concern of all for the sake of independence of the Judiciary enshrined in the constitution of Nepal. It is also found that all three organs of the state, political parties and civil society are in agitation, and it is possible to settle the issue with the joint efforts of the three organs.”
Rana further stated, “The judiciary is a very sensitive organ of the state. There is no possibility of protecting the rights of any institution and individual while undermining the norms of an independent judiciary. I cannot imagine the result without an independent Judiciary in the nation.”
Interestingly, Justice Rana, who ruled against the motion that sought to impeach Karki, had once come under Karki’s radar back in 2012.
While convicting then sitting minister Jaya Prakash Gupta of corruption in 2012, a bench comprising Justices Karki and Tarkraj Bhatta had overturned a 2007 decision taken by a Special Court bench of judges comprising Rana, in which Gupta was acquitted.
As the stay order prevented the parliament from moving the motion forward, the leaders of ruling parties have been in pressure not to grow enmity between the court and parliament. NC leader Ram Chandra Poudel was said to exert pressure on party president Sher Bahadur Deuba to withdraw the impeachment motion.
Of course, Deuba who was angry with CJ Karki for squashing the appointment of Jaya Bahadur Chand as Inspector General of Nepal Police, was mastermind behind the ill-timed impeachment.
According to sources, Deuba and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal have agreed to withdraw the impeachment if CJ Karki takes leave or do not lead a bench. Deuba and Dahal feared whether CJ Karki also quashes the cabinet decision to appoint Praksh Aryal new IGP and issues order to appoint Nawaraj Silwal to the post.
As reported, Karki has not led any bench, signaling a deal between the court and government to end the ongoing row.