Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Sher Bahadur Tamang has been talking about maintaining transparency in the judiciary in order to make it more accountable to the people. Right after assuming office last month, he vowed to draft laws to make property details of judges public. That indeed would be a step in the right direction for we do not yet have the mandatory provision for making public property details of judges of the Supreme Court and other courts. Minister Tamang announced yet another action on Tuesday. He hinted at scrutinizing justices who delivered controversial verdict relating to Rs 61 billion tax waiver cases. He pointed to cases of tax evasion involving billions of rupees ‘unjustly’ resolved through interim orders from the Supreme Court. “If any case of tax evasion is found to have been settled under undue influence, it shall be scrutinized and those responsible shall not be spared,” he declared. We agree. Anyone involved in any kind of wrongdoing while in public office should be held to account.
The Supreme Court in the past delivered verdicts even on cases which seemed laced with corruption and deceit. However, we should also be mindful of the fact that anomalies in the judiciary are the result of political parties’ intense meddling. Political parties have almost institutionalized the practice of picking justices based on political affiliations rather than merits. So much so that right after taking oath of office judges would go to meet political leaders who placed them on the post to express gratitude. The Parliamentary Hearing Special Committee’s deliberation proved to be a ritual exercise. Even appointments of characters of questionable records were approved. Political parties could have stopped this ill right from its start but they chose to turn a blind eye to the problems right in front. Over time, this created a perception among the people that one has to be a follower of certain political party to become eligible for promotion to higher ranks or become judges of high courts and the Supreme Court. Erosion of faith in the judiciary actually started from this point.
Thus our urgent task should be to keep our judiciary away from all sorts of political meddling. We need to ensure right from today that only candidates with impeccable character and high moral integrity will make to the top posts in the judiciary. Unless we do so, all other measures of reform will be meaningless. Besides, questioning the judiciary repeatedly could also further undermine people’s trust. Any attempt for reforms in the judiciary is welcome but none of it should be seen to disturb, even remotely, the fine balance on the checks and balances among legislature, executive and judiciary—which is the soul of democratic system of governance. The law minister and government should be careful not to violate this sacred principle while initiating reform measures in our judiciary.