Nepal’s Judiciary under attack : Deuba-Prachanda alliance a threat to democracy
Arun Budhathoki is a Senior Correspondent with Anna Note. He tweets at @arunbudhathoki.
April 30th will be remembered as the darkest day in Nepal’s judicial history when the first female Chief Justice Sushila Karki was slapped with an impeachment motion unfairly. While working in a café for a startup media—Kathmandu Tribune—the abrupt move exploded on my screen via tweets and online news. In a democratic country, the separation of powers but when the parliamentarians who are elected by the people act selfishly then we can witness the fall of democracy in a young republic. The disgraceful move of removing the soon-to-retire CJ Karki didn’t happen at once but the incumbent government led by PM Dahal and Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba had planned the perfect execution for Sunday evening.
That afternoon lawmakers of United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and Nepali Congress (NC) had filed the impeachment motion at the Parliament Secretariat against Supreme Court’s Sushila Karki. Their only valid argument for the move was that CJ Karki had violated her powers and interfered in handling the appointment of Inspection General (IG) Police of Nepal, failing to exercise restraint on separation of powers, influencing her subordinates and unsuccessfully holding the position with no effectual work. A total of 251 lawmakers filed the motion and the motion didn’t go well the public. Nepalis were infuriated to know that the executive and legislative had joined hands to oust CJ Karki. What followed the impeachment motion startled me as I received a phone call from a classmate working near the Himalayas.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs of Nepal apparently resigned to oppose the impeachment. Analysts argue that it is the move of CPN-M and NC to postpone the elections so that they can influence it as they know that United Marxist-Leninist (UML) will win the upcoming local polls with ease. Moreover, UML is fearful that the two-phased polls will eventually give a leeway to NC and CPM-M to influence voters through the means of power and money. Interestingly, almost no one in the media and social sites is blaming India for the upheavals. India, for now, looks to be concerned with Nepal’s willingness to sign up for One Belt One Road (OBOR) and they wish its neighbor wouldn’t join OBOR in the last week of May. Thus, what public are saying in Nepal is that the greed and corruption of CPN-M and NC pushed them to punish CJ Karki who had only a few days to retire from her position.
The Nepali house of cards saga didn’t end there. Hindu right-wing Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) leader Kamal Thapa announced that they would rescind their support for PM Dahal-led government. This makes interesting as PM Dahal must work out to increase support in the parliament.
Those who supported the impeachment argue that the Article 101.2 of Nepal’s constitution allows them to do so if the Chief Justice is found breaching power and when exhibiting underperformance. Also, CJ Karki is automatically suspended per Article 101.2 and 101.6. Close observers believe that SC’s involvement of appointing IGP had forced the political parties to make the move. Interestingly, the motion came the day before SC’s final verdict on the petition made by DIG Nawaraj Silwal against the appointment of Prakash Aryal as the IGP.
Karki became the first CJ of Nepal last year when she assumed office on August 1, 2016. And she still stays strong and has said in an interview that she’s not afraid to face the impeachment. Karki known for strong character and corrupt-free nature had given the verdict of sending three former Inspectors General of Nepal Police-- Om Bikram Rana, Hem Bahadur Gurung and Ramesh Chand Thakuri—and other senior officials to prison for their involvement in multimillion dollar Sudan scam. They were slapped with jail sentences along with monetary penalty. Commentators argue that UCPN-M and NC were becoming anxious with Karki’s swift action against corruption and power misuse. Unfortunately, she became victim to corrupt politicians who saw her as a hindrance. This is pushed Nepal’s politics in disarray. In a week, it will be interesting to see what unfolds.
PM Dahal’s government risks being a minority in the parliament. But few believe that he will eventually resign and aspire to become the prime minister of Nepal again after the polls announcement. In that case, NC leader Deuba, who is in the line to become the next prime minister will not see the light of the day. Nepal’s young democracy is witnessing a Himalayan game of thrones and it might not go well in coming days. Nepalis are the ones who will suffer most from the greed and corrupt nature of politicians.