Dispute over judges appointment gets serious

Published On: January 23, 2017 07:21 AM NPT By: Nabin Khatiwada

Demanding a review of the council’s decision, government attorneys on Sunday boycotted proceedings in all the courts and tribunals. 

KATHMANDU, Jan 23: Key actors of the judiciary are at loggerheads and the dispute between them has gotten ugly following the appointment of 80 High Court judges last week.

Nepal Bar Association (NBA), Government Attorneys Society and trade unions at the Office of the Attorney General have expressed serious dissatisfaction over the selection of the judges as Judicial Council (JC), chaired by Chief Justice Sushila Karki on January 12 recommended 80 individuals for judges of all the seven High Courts despite boycott of the JC meeting by a member and absence of another member.

Demanding a review of the council’s decision, government attorneys on Sunday boycotted proceedings in all the courts and tribunals. 

“All the government attorneys boycotted benches and none of us participated in the hearings today [Sunday]. We will continue our protest until the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice respond to our concerns,” said Gajaraj Ghimire, chairman of the official trade union at the AG’s Office. “We submitted a memorandum to the members of the Judicial Council and informed them that the protest would be made more stringent if our concerns are not addressed soon.”

The government attorneys took the harsh step of boycotting the benches claiming that the government attorneys were under-represented while appointing judges.

Though NBA, unlike the government attorneys, has not taken stringent steps, it has also expressed dissatisfaction over the recommendations.

NBA, issuing a statement immediately after the JC decision, had argued that the recommendations were made in contravention of the constitutional provisions and the provisions of the Judicial Council Act as the decision was taken in absence of two council members. 

However, the NBA seemed more concerned over not taking up its suggestions as Council Member Ram Prasad Sitaula, who represents Bar at the council, boycotted the meeting expressing his reservations as the council didn’t select advocates for the judges position as per his recommendation.

A source at the Supreme Court said that Chief Justice Karki convened the meeting a day before Justice Baidyanath Upadhyay retired from the apex court. Upadhyay, who was council member as seniormost justice, skipped the meeting. But had the decision not been taken on the same day, Justice Gopal Parajuli would have become member of the Council in place of Upadhyay and he was likely to oppose Karki’s proposal.

Parajuli and Chief Justice Karki are at odds following a dispute over the age of Justice Parajuli. Parajuli, who is likely to succeed Karki as the chief justice, wanted to change his date of birth as per his latest copy of citizenship certificate, which would allow him serve a nine-month long tenure as chief justice. However, Karki decided that Parajuli’s age should be ascertained as per his previous documents and records at the council. Karki’s decision would shorten the tenure of Parajuli for almost two months only. This dispute has created a rift between Karki and Parajuli, who has filed an application at the JC demanding a review of Karki’s order in the dispute over his date of birth.

Former Judges Forum criticizes JC, attorneys

Meanwhile, Former Judges Forum, chaired by former Chief Justice Kedar Nath Upadhyaya, has condemned the Judicial Council’s recommendations accusing the chief justice of picking judges based on the recommendation of the political parties. The Forum also criticized her for taking such a crucial decision in the absence of two council members and when a member of the council was retiring next day.

The Forum in a statement on Sunday said that the remarks by the Minister for Law and Justice who claimed that those close to the CPN-UML were also appointed, proved that the council decision was purely based on a political deal.

“The act of appointing judges based on a political deal should be considered as a serious interference into the independence of the judiciary,” read the statement.

However, the Forum also criticized the boycott of the government attorneys. “The boycott of benches by government attorneys over the judges’ appointments is directly against the professional dignity and discipline of the particular service,” it said. 

On the other hand, Attorney General Raman Kumar Shrestha has been openly supporting the agitating attorneys. Speaking at a public function on Sunday, Shrestha said that he is not against the decision of the attorneys following the council’s decision.

AG versus NBA  

Meanwhile, the Office of Attorney General and NBA, the umbrella organization of lawyers, are also at loggerheads.

The first convention of the government attorneys in December stated that it would be inappropriate for the government attorneys to defend government agencies, which consult individual legal advisors while taking decision but don’t inform the Office of Attorney General about such decisions.

Following the convention, the AG Office reminded the government agencies to not appoint independent legal advisors and AG Shrestha supported the convention decision.

On the other hand, NBA accused the Attorney General of forgetting that he, as the chairman of the Nepal Bar Council, is the leader of all the lawyers.

Issuing a press release on Sunday, NBA General Secretary Khamma Bahadur Khati said that the government agencies should not be barred from taking legal consultancy from independent lawyers.

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