Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana has been in a clear breach of constitutional and democratic norms. By lobbying to appoint ministers of his choice, he has made a mockery of the hallowed principle of separation of powers. The only way to restore the judiciary’s credibility is to remove Rana from office. Nothing short will do.
With our legislature nearly defunct and the executive severely compromised, the judiciary is the last bastion of hope to keep the torch of democracy burning. Its blatant politicization is thus deeply troubling.
Even as the civil society, the media, and the legal professionals are now collectively demanding Rana’s resignation or, failing that, his impeachment, the country’s main political actors seem either uninterested or ambivalent. The leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center) have been trying to sidestep the issue of Rana’s removal. Even CPN-UML, the main opposition, is in a dilemma.
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There is clear reluctance on the part of the ruling coalition to remove Rana, someone directly responsible for fashioning the Deuba-led government. The UML, for its part, appears more interested in vindicating KP Oli’s House dissolution than in restoring public faith in the judiciary.
As people’s representatives, they must heed the public voice. Rana’s removal as Chief Justice has also become important to send a powerful message to future occupants of the post that they dare not cross their constitutional Rubicon. It will also discourage the unnecessary hobnobbing between the executive and the judiciary. Moreover, in light of the looming three-tier elections, the ruling coalition, and particularly PM Deuba should be mindful of the negative impact of the CJ controversy on their electoral prospects.
Even though the judiciary in Nepal has repeatedly come into controversy since the restoration of democracy in 1990, perhaps this is the most egregious case of breach of democratic norms on its part after the elevation of a sitting chief justice to the post of prime minister in 2013. These actions must have consequences. Or the whole democratic apparatus will be in jeopardy. Time has also come to rethink the process of judicial appointments, in many ways the starting point for the politicization of the judiciary.