National

Bar Association to reconsider process to send its representative in Judicial Council

  • The umbrella body of lawyers says the person it sent to the council does not represent it anymore
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

May 13, 2019-

On May 9, the Supreme Court had organised a tea reception to mark “Kanoon Diwas”—Law Day. But just after the reception, Chandeswor Shrestha, the newly elected president of Nepal Bar Association, had traded barbs with Ram Prasad Sitaula, who is Bar’s representative in the Judicial Council.

When Shrestha tried to remind Sitaula of Bar’s letter to the latter about the recommendations of Supreme Court justices and appointment of High Court judges, Sitaula frowned upon Shrestha.

The justices and lawyers had to intervene to prevent the situation from turning nasty.

The crux of the argument was the appointment of judges over which the Bar had expressed its concerns through a press statement.

In the statement, the Bar decided to question its representative in the Judicial Council, Sitaula, about what it called “erroneous” recommendations for justices in the top court and appointment of judges in High Courts.

“I will ignore your letter. Handcuff and take me if you can,” Sitaula shouted at Shrestha when asked about his response to Bar’s letter.

The following day, the Bar issued a press statement saying that Sitaula cannot “represent” the association in the Judicial Council.

“We don’t have any legal provision to recall our representative from the Judicial Council but we can officially declare that the person we had sent does not represent the Bar anymore,” said Rakshya Basyal, vice-president of the Nepal Bar Association.

Article 153 (3) of the constitution states that the members of Judicial Council shall be removed from office in the same manner and on the same grounds as a Judge of the

Supreme Court. A Supreme Court judge, according to Article 131, can be removed if she or he resigns, attains the age of 65, is impeached; unable to discharge duties due to physical or mental illness; punished by the court on criminal offense of moral turpitude or dies.

The latest episode of war of words between the Bar president and Bar representative in the Judicial Council comes amid concerns over the composition of the Judicial Council, which has met with severe criticism for failing to recommend judges on merit basis.

The chief justice-headed Judicial Council has the seniormost justice of the Supreme Court, law minister, a representative of the Nepal Bar Association and a jurist recommended by the Prime Minister as members.

In the wake of recent criticism, the first meeting of the newly elected central committee of the Bar, led by Shrestha, on April 19 had decided to draft an internal work procedure—or a directive—to make it clear what role Bar’s representative in the Judicial Council should play.  

“We decided to draft an internal work procedure to define the role of Bar’s representatives in the Judicial Council,” said Lilamani Paudel, general secretary of Nepal Bar Association which has around 18,000 lawyers as members in its 89 different units. “We will also set the criteria for selecting our representative in the council.”

The meeting had also decided to prepare a roster of lawyers to be appointed as judges in the High Courts and Supreme Court.

“Citing his three years’ experience as a member of the Judicial Council, the Bar had made a correspondence, asking its representative Sitaula to provide his suggestions,” Paudel said. “Nepal Bar Association was never consulted while appointing judges from among the legal practitioners, and the decisions were never free from controversy.”

This is not the first time the appointment of judges has invited conflict between the Bar and the Judicial Council.

On January 7, 2015 when the Bar questioned the appointment of judges, the then representative of the Bar in the Judicial Council, Upendra Keshari Neupane, had tendered his resignation.

However, Sitaula said he was not a representative of the Bar anymore and that he represents all the citizens of the country.

On suggestions sought by the Bar, he claimed that the intellectual lawyers’ body themselves should know better. “What can I suggest them?” he said.

 

Published: 14-05-2019 06:30

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