KATHMANDU: The delay in appointment of ad hoc judges in permanent posts in Supreme Court (SC) raised a debate about the relevance of temporary judges in the highest judiciary of the country. The judges’ appointment row in the judicial council headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, when the draft of Constituent Assembly Committee on Judicial System proposed to scrap the appointment of ad hoc judges in the Apex Court (AC), has a serious implication.
At least seven ad hoc judges of the SC may lose their jobs with the promulgation of the new constitution, so some of them recently met Chief Justice Regmi and asked him to either appoint them at the earliest or relieve them.
Due to workload, ad hoc judges have been appointed, but questions are raised time and again about their credibility when the power centres insist upon the appointment of their near and dear ones as judges rather than concentrating on impartial dispensation of justice.
During the direct royal regime, deposed King Gyanendra had appointed Attorney General Pawan Kumar Ojha, who had openly supported the autocratic regime, for the post of SC judge. Since then, the power centres have been doing their best to appoint people who support them in the post.
On April 15, 2010, the SC itself had ruled that appointment of ad hoc judges in the SC undermined the judicial independence and had drawn attention of the government and Constituent Assembly not to incorporate the provision of temporary judges in the future constitution. In the case of Subodh Man Napit versus prime minister’s office, a full bench of Justices Bala Ram KC, Gauri Dhakal and Bharat Raj Upreti held that the parliamentary hearing may purify the appointment though.
Underlining the need for independence of the judiciary, the AC had ruled that independence of the judiciary needed to be guaranteed in the constitution itself and the appointment process needed to be reliable, transparent, and open for all.
The security of the judges, guarantee of tenure and retirement, the autonomous function of the judges, judicial review power and the financial expenditure of the judiciary are the fundamentals of the judicial independence and need to be guaranteed in the new constitution. But while promulgating the constitution, drafters must be mindful whether the work of the temporary judges pose threat on the entire credibility of the judges or not.
“For sure, there are both positive and negative sides in the appointment of temporary judges,” Advocate Shuvan Raj Acharya told THT Perspectives. “Nonetheless, they are sharing a significant amount of workload and functioning fairly due to the fear that they might lose their jobs otherwise,” Acharya reasoned.