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Governance in chains

It is now clear that elections alone cannot set everything right in Nepal

Last week, Nepal’s Acting Chief Justice Damodar Sharma clarified that the Supreme Court was only trying to curb the unauthorised movement of “undesirable elements” within the court premises. His response came in the wake of critical references in the Bar as well as the media community about the SC annulling all entry passes issued to journalists recently, days after a journalist was asked to leave the courtroom for not being “decently dressed”.

The SC faces arguably the most strident criticism in its history from the media and civil society in the wake of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi’s taking over as the chairman of the council of ministers in March. Hearing on petitions challenging Regmi’s appointment as the executive head, on the plea that it is in violation of the principle of separation of powers, has been deferred fifteen times. No one seems to be ready to give Regmi the benefit of doubt on this repeated deferral.

The CJ’s taking over as executive head is not the only aberration. A senior advocate and former chairman of the Nepal Bar Association, arguing in a case against a presidential appointee for the anti-graft constitutional body, is also a leading face of the protests demanding annulment of the appointment. This naturally has affected the normally cordial relations between the judges and the Bar on one hand and the judges and the media on the other. Confrontation looms large.

The Supreme Court faces arguably the most strident criticism in its history from the media and civil society.

“I know in principle the CJ’s appointment as prime minister is wrong. But can the Supreme Court call it unconstitutional and void when the interim constitution that we have has no provision of electing a prime minister when the legislative body does not exist?” a sitting judge confides. “Nevertheless, we not only wished but also advised Regmi against taking up the executive post,” he adds. That explains the predicament of the judiciary and its repeated deferring of the hearing.

… contd.

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