KATHMANDU, Dec 7: Chief Justice Om Prakash Mishra assumed leadership of the judiciary some four months ago with a stated commitment to zero tolerance for corruption. But he has not decided even a single graft case at his own bench.
Mishra, who is retiring in a few weeks, has assigned most of the corruption cases to other benches. Most of the cases pending at the apex court have also been frequently postponed during his tenure, citing one reason or another.
An analysis of the cause lists prepared by Chief Justice Mishra in the last four months shows that only a few minor cases were submitted at his bench and most of these were postponed either through the issuing of process (or procedural) orders or for other reasons.
Currently, around 700 cases concerning corruption, bribery, bank fraud and fake certificates are pending at the apex court.
“The brevity of his tenure might be one reason for the failure to decide corruption cases ,” senior advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali told Republica. “However, it would be lacking in judicial accountability if the CJ intentionally did not assign any corruption cases to his own bench,” he added.
An analysis of the cases assigned by Mishra from August 5 to December 6 shows that he also did not assign corruption cases to senior justices. Such cases were frequently assigned to the junior members of the bench.
“Since his was a short tenure clients might have postponed filing their cases to avoid his tenure altogether. But there should be a study whether he was not interested in assigning corruption cases to his own bench,” said Gyawali.
Is it another co-incidence that most of cases were postponed? A bank fraud case against Jagarnath Sonar was submitted to the bench on August 9 but was postponed through a process order. A corruption cases against Yubaraj Sharma and Hari Narayan Sah at the three-member full bench of Justices Cholendra SJB Rana, Harikrishna Karki and Sapana Pradhan Malla was also postponed.
Similarly, a corruption case at the bench of Justices Sharada Prasad Ghimire and Dambar Bahadur Shahi against former home secretary Padam Prasad Pokhrel was scheduled for a final decision on August 13 . But the decision was postponed. Janardan Sharma's case was also submitted for a final decision on August 15 but the decision could not happen.
It has also been found that lawyers have frequently postponed filing corruption cases after CJ Mishra took up his post.
Only two cases have so far been decided under his tenure. One of these was the conviction of Gyanendra Purkuti and Sanjaya Rai by a three-member bench of Justices Hari Krishna Karki, Ishwor Prasad Khatiwada and Anandamohan Bhattarai on August 23. The other is the acquittal of former IGP Motilal Bohara by a division bench of Justices Sharada Prasad Ghimire and Purusottam Bhandari just on Thursday .
Corruption cases against Madan Khatri, Jagarnath Sah, Bindra Shrestha, Mahendra Mandal and Manrup Shahi were submitted on August 29 but postponed by the bench. The same day a decision on the case of former home secretary Pokhrel was postponed for a second time.
On September 4, a number of corruption cases agianst Bishnu Koirala, Sunita Subedi Wasti, Raj Kumar Singh, Renu Budhathoki, Bishnu Prasad Gyawali, Balkrishna Thapa, Pushkar Upadhayay and Dhruba Kumar Lamichhane were submitted at the division bench of Justices Sharada Prasad Ghimire and Tej Bahadur KC . These were also postponed.
A division bench of Mishra and Tej Bahadur KC issued process order in the case against Govinda Prasad Joshi on September 6. It was the first corruption case assigned to Mishra's bench . The second was the case of Shambhu Chalise submitted on October 25. Mishra issued process orders in both cases.
A corruption case against Govinda Prasad Joshi was submitted at a three-member bench of Justices Sharada Prasad Ghimire, Purusottam Bhandari and Dambar Bahadur Shahi on November 29 and it was also postponed. A decision was expected on December 2 in a corruption case against former defense secretary Chakra Bandhu Aryal . But it was postponed, by a division bench of Justices Tej Bahdur KC and Purusottam Bhandari.
Most of the corruption cases were postponed through the weekly cause list issued by the CJ and the rest were either postponed by the lawyers involved or the judges could not find the time for hearings.
A source at the Supreme Court, however, said that the CJ tried to avoid controversy, so he assigning the corruption cases to other justices.
Former vice president of Nepal Bar Association Tika Ram Bhattarai said the CJ averted controversy by avoiding corruption cases. “He had decided corruption cases when he was in the Special Court . So it may create difficulties for him if he were to assign corruption cases to his own bench,” Bhattarai added.