KATHMANDU, Dec 10: The Supreme Court (SC) has passed a preliminary verdict that the suspended office bearers of constitutional bodies cannot resume their office until the impeachment motion is brought to a logical end.
A Constitutional Bench of the SC on Friday issued the verdict in response to a writ petition filed against the letter issued by the General Secretary of the Federal Parliament Secretariat, Bharat Raj Gautam, on Wednesday to the suspended Chief Justice, Cholendra SJB Rana, stating that the impeachment motion filed against him was already ineffective. The letter had paved the way for Rana to resume his office.
The SC Constitutional Bench has ruled that impeachment motion against any office bearer of constitutional bodies will remain effective even if the term of the House of Representatives (HoR) that initiated the action expired halfway. It has also implicitly said that such impeachment motion can be carried forward by the newly-elected parliament in case the parliament that initiated the motion failed to conclude it before the expiry of its term.
The Constitutional Bench has ruled that suspended Chief Justice Rana cannot resume office mainly on two grounds: First, the impeachment motion filed against Rana at the HoR has not concluded yet and that there has been a decision earlier to carry forward the motion in the new parliament. Second, the administrative chief of the federal parliament does not have rights to exercise the rights of a sovereign parliament.
The Bench has maintained that the impeachment motion against Rana is still in the process as the Impeachment Recommendation Committee had submitted its proposal to the then Speaker of HoR to conclude all actions related to the impeachment motion against Rana by the new parliament. It has also raised a serious question over the legality of the letter issued by the general secretary of the Federal Parliament Secretariat, asking the legal bases on which the letter was issued.
What happens next?
With the verdict issued jointly by Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki and justices Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Dr Aananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha, the chances of suspended Chief Justice Rana resuming his office as CJ have come to an end. Rana is retiring from office on Tuesday due to the 65-year age limit for justices and chief justice.
The impeachment motion filed against CJ Rana will now be submitted at the newly-elected HoR. Since Rana will have already retired from his office, there would be no point in taking forward the impeachment motion. Should the impeachment motion be endorsed by two-thirds majority, the parliament can still investigate the corruption and money laundering cases Rana faces.
The letter sent by general secretary of the Federal Parliament Secretariat Gautam to the key state offices on Wednesday saying that the impeachment motion registered against Rana in the erstwhile HoR had become ineffective has created ripples in the country’s judicial and political circles.
General Secretary Gautam sent the letter to the President’s Office, Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, Supreme Court, Constitutional Council, and the Judicial Council. Rana, who was automatically suspended from his post after an impeachment motion was registered against him in the previous HoR on February 13 earlier this year, was preparing to resume his duties at the apex court on Wednesday.
But he apparently changed his mind after a writ petition was filed at the apex court against the parliament secretariat’s letter and the court asked the latter a slew of questions. The letter also triggered immediate protests by the office-bearers of Nepal Bar Association (NBA) and the Supreme Court chapter of the NBA who formed a human barrier at the main gate of the Supreme Court to prevent Rana from entering his office.
While Thursday was a public holiday, Rana did not attempt to come to SC to resume his office on Friday as a writ petition against the decision of the federal parliament was scheduled for hearing and legal professionals had already started a protest at the main entrance of the apex court to bar him from entering the office.