KATHMANDU, May 2:The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said that the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Sushila Karki threatens the independence of judiciary and rule of law in Nepal.
In a press statement on Tuesday, the ICJ has called on the Government of Nepal and the ruling parties to withdraw the impeachment motion against the chief justice in order to ensure judicial independence and the appropriate separation of powers under the rule of law in the country.
“This impeachment motion, the first against a sitting chief justice in Nepal’s history, raises very serious concerns about the independence of Nepal’s Supreme Court and the separation of powers in the country,” the statement quoted Matt Pollard, who heads the ICJ’s Center for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, as saying.
“The impeachment motion seems timed to suspend Chief Justice Karki just as she was scheduled to hear a politically controversial case,” Pollard has further said.
The impeachment motion came in the wake of the decision of the full bench of the Supreme Court, chaired by Justice Karki, to revoke the Cabinet decision on February 12 to appoint a new Inspector General of Nepal Police evidently in violation of existing processes and regulations. Justice Karki is scheduled to retire on June 7, 2017, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age.
“The timing of the impeachment action, so close to the Chief Justice’s scheduled retirement, gives credence to suspicions that it is aimed at preventing her participation in judicial activity during the next few weeks,” the statement has quoted Pollard as saying further.
Filing the impeachment motion immediately resulted in the suspension of the chief justice from her duties, pursuant to Article 101(6). “The impeachment process under Article 101 does not comply with international standards on the independence of the judiciary, as the ICJ has pointed out repeatedly in its analysis of the 2015 Constitution,” Pollard added.
Nepal’s judiciary, including the Supreme Court, had also recently been criticized by officials in the ruling parties and the military in relation to a number of high-profile human rights cases. “Nepal’s Judiciary has been instrumental in protecting human rights, rule of law and enforcement of the Nepal’s obligation under international law,” Pollard said.
While noting that Nepali judiciary as an institution has strengthened and has gained international respect for its independence, the ICJ said this achievement should be celebrated and strengthened, instead of being subject to this kind of legislative attack.