Congress-Maoist move threatens separation of powers?

  • impeachment motion against chief justice
- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 2, 2017-Back in 1995, Bishwanath Upadhyay, who is still remembered for his integrity, legal acumen and courage to make difficult decisions, as then chief justice decided to reinstate the House dissolved by then prime minister Manmohan Adhikari. It had only been five years since the reinstatement of democracy in 1990 and Upadhyay’s decision of overturning the government move was largely seen as 

a confrontation between the executive and the judiciary. That was a historical decision—though the UML was furious about it then—which is still discussed today. 

Cut to 2017. 

Sushila Karki, the first female chief justice of the country, is facing an impeachment motion. Given the lengthy process, Karki will retire long before Parliament votes, if the motion is not withdrawn in the near future, to impeach her. The incident, however, has sparked a debate whether the executive and judiciary are on a collision course. 

As many as 249 lawmakers from the two big ruling parties—Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre)—on Sunday registered a motion at the Parliament Secretariat seeking to impeach Karki, charging her with infringing upon the executive’s jurisdiction and nurturing factionalism in the judiciary. 

This is first ever impeachment motion against a chief justice. Karki remains suspended now. 

The NC and Maoist Centre have met with widespread criticism for their move, with many saying the move to impeach Karki lacks solid ground and smacks of vengeance. While the ruling parties have accused Karki of working against the principle of separation of powers, those who are objecting to the move say an impeachment motion against her in fact could dismantle the very principle, which is the basic tenet of a democracy. 

“The ruling parties have unleashed an attack on independence of the judiciary [by filing an impeachment motion against the chief justice]. The reasons presented by them for filing the motion doesn’t hold water,” said former chief justice Kalyan Shrestha. “In a democracy, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary must function well and independently. A decision taken by one entity might not be pleasant to the other, but they have to respect each other’s decisions.” Experts who have criticised the ruling parties’ impeachment motion have even warned that the move could dismantle the entire system of checks and balances, which they say could lead to a system collapse at a time when the country is struggling to institutionalise the constitution. 

If the dramatic events that followed the impeachment motion against the chief justice are anything to go by, the move, experts say, has been made by the ruling parties only to get Karki out of the bench, as the NC and the Maoist party lack the required numbers (396) in the 593-strong Parliament to impeach her. The constitutional provision, however, has it that a quarter of sitting lawmakers (149) can file an impeachment motion that results in suspension of the person to be impeached. 

Published: 02-05-2017 07:18

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