Kathmandu: As many as 98 lawmakers belonging to Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Centre), and CPN (Unified Socialist) filed the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Cholendra Shumsher Rana on Sunday.
The Chief Justice has long been accused of a number of wrongdoings, including corruption, seeking a share in the cabinet, among others, and there were calls for his resignation or impeachment against him for a long time.
The ruling parties had seemed reluctant to impeach the CJ even as the legal fraternity had demanded such a move by the political parties. So why did the ruling parties, who were dithering to take any action against CJ for his alleged involvement in wrongdoings, come together this time?
First, pressures were mounting on the ruling parties to make a move to intervene in the standoff that CJ Rana’s stand not to put in papers and the legal fraternity’s relentless call for either his resignation or impeachment. Political parties appear to have reached the conclusion that it is getting late to do something about the imbroglio in the Supreme Court.
Second, CJ Rana is believed to have made up his mind to give a verdict in the case of 14 lawmakers–including Madhav Kumar Nepal–of the CPN (Unified Socialist), which is a coalition partner in the government. Impeachment motion, in their reckoning, can save the fate of the Unified Socialist.
Third, a murder case against Speaker Agni Sapkota is pending at the Supreme Court. Sapkota faces a kidnapping and murder charge. As per a case filed at the Supreme Court on March 3, 2008, by Purnimaya Lama, Sapkota and other Maoist leaders, including Suryaman Dong, were involved in the abduction and murder of her husband Arjun Lama. It is believed that the CJ was going to rule a verdict against the Speaker.
Fourth, the trade-off between Congress and Maoist Center and Unified Socialist has also been reported on the MCC Compact. It is believed that with Nepali Congress helping to prevent possible invalidation of Unified Socialist and the verdict against Speaker Sapkota, Maoist Center and Unified Socialist will soften their position on the MCC Compact. The two parties are speculated to not participate in the House session to table the Compact, thereby continuing with symbolic protest while implicitly allowing Nepali Congress to push the Compact for ratification.
Meanwhile, the impeachment motion has riled up the main opposition CPN-UML. The UML has interpreted the impeachment move as a tactic of the ruling coalition to influence the upcoming local elections, the case against 14 lawmakers of Unified Socialist and Latita Niwas scam. They are reportedly mulling a counter-impeachment motion against four justices who had given the verdict in favor of reinstatement of parliament which the UML chair had twice dissolved when he was the PM.
However, the observers say that it would not be appropriate to politicize this issue as it is a political attempt to prevent further erosion of the judiciary. “The impeachment motion should be taken as an attempt to prevent jeopardy in the country’s justice and the erosion of the Supreme Court,” said Taranath Dahal, political analyst, and right to information activist. “Something had to be done to preserve the sanctity of the court and bring the justice system back on track. Ruling parties have made an attempt toward that direction,” he added.