BY P. KHAREL
Shocks after shocks never cease to chase us Nepalis. We never seem to have enough. The executive branch of government has since many decades been reduced to a pack of incompetent and more often than not corrupt while agents of the people have all but succeeded in echoing popular aspirations. The misuse of red passports and atrocious absenteeism, especially by the latter, leaves little or no room for giving the benefit of the doubt that ignorance might be the actual culprit to blame.
As if these were not inadequate series of rude shocks, the judiciary, too, attracted an ugly sight, most conspicuously this fortnight.
In effect, the vital organs of the state in the last few years have presented a most odious spectatcle that would have been nipped in the bud if the same had occurred in any fairly functioning democracy. Those wielding power at the helm of the affairs or, at least, making money through dubious means might laughably engage in self-congratualations about “loktantrik gains” which have eluded us for painful 12 years.
Not long ago, a dozen or so judges were reported to have flocked to the CPN (UML) party headquarters in shortly after being sworn in office as the Hon’ble ones. Neither the target of criticism nor the party in question found it fit to clarify its positions on the controversies that circulated so crushingly and adversely affected the credibility of the institutions they represented.
It was also reported in 2017 that a host of Hon’ble judges were promoted at unearthly hours at the residence of the presiding deity, whereby decisions were apportioned on the basis of prevailing power equations among key political parties. The judicracy decided to maintain silence on the reports.
LETHAL WEAPON: Ruling parties have tested and tasted the privilege of setting in motion impeachment proceedings. If the powers that be find someone placed in a vital position as inconvenient to their less than democratic steps, the power to impeach becomes most dubiously expedient. Threats and intimidation are the first line of attack.
Sushila Karki, the first woman to lead the Supreme Court, faced an impeachment motion last spring when 249 legislators representing Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre) registered the impeachment motion against the then chief justice at the parliament secretariat April 30.
Apparently, Karki had rubbed many a political big shot the wrong way. The manner in which the motion got tabled in parliament and the subsequent slowed-down pace and passion Karki displayed in her enthusiasm for activity gave the impression to many a mind that an “understanding” had been reached. Some interpreted it to be a bargain plea between the individual and the group that found its interests at stake.
A single bench of Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana on May 5 stayed the impeachment motion against Karki in a verdict desribing the impeachment motion as prima facie against the spirit of the constitution.
Pointing out that the judiciary is “a very sensitive organ of the state”, the Rana verdict said such an impeachment motion against a chief justice or judge could be considered constitutional, feasible and appropriate only if the conclusions of serious discussions at academic and civil society levels on whether or not the conduct, behaviour and delivery of justice by the said chief justice or judge had been deviant. Unless such a situation obtained, the court order added, an impeachment motion could not be considered to be in line with the spirit of the constitution. “If the principle of independence of the judiciary is subjected to meddling, we cannot protect the rights of any state organ or the citizen,” Justice Rana said.
ABSENCE OF BASICS: When it comes to the basics of a functioning state, Nepal ranks the worst in the whole of South Asia. Competing with Afghanistan to the status of South Asia’s most corrupt, this once peaceful nation has lost the practice of equality since long. Corruptionis is the chief cause of the existing state of anarchy. Corruption and inequality are inherently linked. With democrats/loktantriks like the current crop, who needs autocrats?
In principle, democracy should be made relevant to all, essentially raising hopes of all and providing equal opportunities to all. People must accept to make peace with democratic defeat. Dissent in a democracy is expected and allowed in good grace. Individuals are not defined by positions they hold when it comes to equality. This is a point of reference to be ignored at the very peril of the credibility of the individual or institution concerned. Sovereignty of ignorance and tyranny of the majority won’t walk the democratic talk.
The ongoing bad governance is a direct and indispuptable outcome of undemocratic practices. The prevailing culture of cronyism and nepotism, constantly shadowed by impunity and partisanism, has created a runaway crisis of misrule at its worst. From it has emerged a noxious class of party oligarchy, rendering governance to a fiefdom of a few and reducing the masses to a vast exploited lot. These are the long-standing challenges that goverments faced. The question is whether the Oli government will prove to be different, and for the better.