January 20, 2019 02:30 AM NPT
One unfortunate case of our judiciary is that it requires a major reform but the reform is not happening. With politicization, the country’s justice delivery body is no longer the most trusted institution that it used to be. Over the last few years, this impression is getting entrenched to the detriment of our system of rule of law. In this context, some early steps of new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Cholendra Shamsher Rana have sent the positive message and if these efforts are continued, they might go down as the best initiatives ever taken. CJ Rana has summoned nine judges of various high courts on deputation to the Judicial Council (JC) over suspected deviations in the 33-kg gold smuggling scam. This includes five judges of Biratnagar High Court—Nagendra Labh Karna, Saranga Subedi, Thir Bahaudr Karki, Umesh Kumar Singh and Umesh Raj Paudel—who have been accused of issuing wrong judgment while conducting hearings on gold smuggling case. Police officials and others accused in the case were released on bail.
Also, he has taken initiatives to look into some controversial orders given by the apex court justices such as the short-term stay order issued by single-bench of Deepak Raj Joshee who had ordered the government and Nepal Rastra Bank not to bar businessman Ajeya Raj Sumargi from withdrawing a sum of money which had been blocked by the central bank for lack of clear sources. A division bench led by Rana has refused to give continuity to the short-term stay order and ordered further investigations into the controversial amount of money brought from foreign banks. CJ Rana, who took the charge of judiciary early this month, has also vowed to launch reforms in the judiciary by forming a monitoring mechanism. That’s welcome. As a matter of fact, CJ Rana has the rare opportunity to revive the public trust in judiciary by initiating vital reforms within. He has taken office at the time when some of his predecessors—including Gopal Parajuli—have left controversial legacy with questionable judgments. Second, he will be the first CJ in many years to serve for the four long years. He is well placed to reform many things and leave an impressive legacy for his successors. This is imperative because Nepal’s Supreme Court, at times, has acted in a way that acquits even those who are perceived by the people as notoriously corrupt.
Somehow, a bad precedent has almost been set: CIAA files cases of corruption against certain individuals. Those cases are then looked into by the Special Court. The Special Court rules verdict to punish the corrupt people. Then those cases reach the Supreme Court. In some of such cases, Supreme Court has given clean cheats to those implicated by the Special Court. This has resulted in even the most corrupt people walking scot-free. If Supreme Court under CJ Rana can break this cycle, he will be doing the best service to the country. After taking office, CJs promise huge reforms in the judiciary. Some of CJ Rana’s predecessors had also expressed such commitment. But either they have failed to continue the momentum or they have simply ignored reforms agenda. Understandably, an individual alone cannot do much to bring drastic change in the system. But if every individual at the top position fulfill their duty with sincerity and honesty, they can surely make a difference. It is hoped that CJ Rana will be able to make some difference in the country’s justice delivery institutions.