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Judiciary in a quandary as crisis looms large

   Prez meeting leaders of four major political forces today


KATHMANDU: To avert the looming crisis in judiciary, the government and the judicial system have stepped up efforts so that five ad hoc judges, who are retiring tomorrow, could be retained.

Retirement of the five ad hoc judges will create a huge vacuum in judiciary, making justice dispensation too difficult.

“We are making an all-out effort to find a convincing way to avert the crisis,” Khem Naryan Dhungana, a member of the Judicial Council told The Himalayan Times. The prime minister is also a member of the JC, the body that appoints the judges.

Failure to reach a decision by tomorrow will result in retirement of five ad hoc judges — Baidhya Nath Upadhayay, Tarka Raj Bhatta, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Kamal Narayan Das and Bharat Bahadur Karki.

According to Dhungana, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has taken the issue ‘very seriously’, and he held talks with the leaders of political parties in a bid to find a way out to avert looming crisis. Prime Minister Bhattarai, during his talks with political leaders, tried to convince them that an ordinance or a presidential order as per Article 158 of the Interim Constitution was a must to save the ad hoc judges from retiring.

Dhungana said the JC has floated two options. First, the government move ahead with an ordinance seeking to amend the Judicial Council Act and introduce a provision of US recess style of appointment of judges in the absence of Parliament. And second, the President issue an order to implement the constitution. Prime Minister Bhattarai today called on the President to apprise him of the crisis. He urged the Head of State to invoke Article 158 of the Interim Constitution. “But the President suggested that the prime minister try to forge consensus to resolve all the crises facing the country,” said President’s Press Adviser Rajendra Dahal. The President has also invited four major forces — the Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and United Democratic Madhesi Front — tomorrow to discuss current issues, including the crisis in judiciary.

Prime Minister Bhattarai also met NC President Sushil Koirala and sought his support for the government to recommend an ordinance to the President. But Koirala did not give his consent for the ordinance. “When he asked me for the support, I proposed to him to resolve all the problems in a package,” said Koirala.

Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, however, is hopeful that there would be solution by tomorrow. “If push comes to shove, I have to do something, and I will,” said Regmi, refusing to go in details of the initiative he is planning to take. “I am duty-bound to do something for the sake of judiciary,” he added.

Some members of the judiciary and senior lawyers, they said appointing (or retaining) judges through an ordinance or any other way could be ‘extra-constitutional’ as a Supreme Court bench yesterday had a split opinion on the issue. “We urge the authorities not to make any unconstitutional move,” said Prem Bahadur Khadka, President, Nepal Bar Association. Former attorney general Sushil Pant said retaining judges without ‘a convincing solution’ would make the mockery of the rule of law. “I don’t think the JC will do anything that contradicts the constitution,” he said.

Solution on the table!

• Govt can bring ordinance to amend Judicial Council Act, subject to President’s approval

• President can invoke Article 158 to remove constitutional difficulties, but Head of State has refused to do so

• CJ can intervene, but he refused to say what his steps will be

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