KATHMANDU, Jan 2: The Parliamentary Hearings Committee (PHC) on Tuesday endorsed Cholendra Samser Rana for chief justice of the Supreme Court (SC) for the next four years.
He will be sworn-in by the president on Wednesday. Rana, who served as justice of the Supreme Court for the last four years, will take charge as head of the apex court immediately after his oath. Outgoing chief justice Om Prakash Mishra, 65, retired from Thursday on the ground of age.
“The PHC has unanimously approved the Constitutional Council's recommendation for chief justice and decided to inform the authorities concerned today (Tuesday),” PHC chair Laxman Lal Karna said announcing the decision after the hearing.
Rana is the first apex court justice to be appointed chief justice without being seniormost justice. After the PHC in August rejected seniormost justice Deepak Raj Joshee for chief justice, the Constitutional Council last month recommended Rana for chief justice. Unlike his predecessor, Rana is likely to serve as chief justice for nearly a full term of four years until December 13, 2022, when he reaches the retirement age of 65.
Though, the then CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Center)—both of which have unified to become the NCP— had in 2014 voted against Rana when he was nominated for SC justice, the party's lawmakers have now endorsed him for heading the judiciary.
Altogether 13 complaints were registered against Rana at the PHC questioning his past decisions as justice at the SC and judge at different courts. Lawmakers had also grilled Rana during his hearing on Sunday based on the complaints received.
Ruling NCP lawmakers also cautioned Rana during the hearing not to repeat the past mistakes and also issued a veiled warning that parliament can at any time impeach a chief justice.
“We have a recent history of rejecting a chief justice nominee from the hearings committee and bringing impeachment motion against a sitting chief justice. We are optimistic that you will work sincerely and not invite any such situations,” said NCP lawmaker Surendra Pandey on Tuesday. Another NCP lawmaker Yogesh Bhattarai and Niru Devi Pal also expressed similar concerns during Rana's hearing.
Bhattarai also sought Rana's commitment to implementing parliamentary decisions, while expressing his concerns over cases being assigned to justice Joshee, who was earlier rejected for chief justice.
In response Rana expressed his commitment to fully assimilate the parliamentary decisions, but didn't mention specifically whether he would assign cases to Joshee or not.
Rana also vowed to get tough against corruption and irregularities in the judiciary and promised to set up a mechanism to tackle such issues. He also defended that all of his past decisions and verdicts were based on evidences and existing laws.