Kathmandu, February 14: In a dramatic turn of events today, 98 lawmakers from the ruling coalition registered a motion of impeachment against Supreme Court Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana at the Parliament Secretariat.
Lawmakers from three coalition partners — the Nepali Congress, the CPN-Maoist Centre, and the CPN (Unified Socialist) — filed the impeachment motion against Rana invoking Article 101 (2) of the constitution, listing 21 grounds for impeachment against him.
One of the two other coalition partners – the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal — was not consulted for the impeachment motion process. “I came to know about it through media,” JSP-N Chair Upendra Yadav said when asked if he would back the motion.
“We will discuss the issue in our party.” A lawmaker from another partner, Rastriya Janamorcha’s Durga Paudel, said she could not sign the impeachment motion, but said she supported it.
The ruling coalition’s impeachment move against Rana comes in the backdrop of fivemonth-long deadlock in the judiciary.
The Nepal Bar Association and the Supreme Court Bar Association have been protesting at the Supreme Court seeking Rana’s resignation. The NBA has accused Rana of seeking a quid pro quo deal with the executive and stalling much needed reforms in the judiciary. Rana was accused of seeking to appoint his brother-in-law Gajendra Hamal a minister in the Sher Bahadur Deuba Cabinet. In the face of the controversy, Hamal, who had become industry minister, resigned from his post on October 10 within hours of his appointment.
Other justices of the Supreme Court who had boycotted bench in protest against Rana started hearing cases in January, but have refused to share bench with the CJ. As stalemate continues, CJ Rana has not been able to take part in the meetings of constitutional bodies where he is an ex-officio member.
After the impeachment motion was filed, Rana was automatically suspended as the CJ and the senior-most justice of the Supreme Court, Deepak Kumar Karki, assumed the charge of acting chief justice. However, the impeachment motion will have to be passed by two-thirds majority of the HoR.
The ruling coalition does not have two-thirds majority. Passage of the impeachment motion is possible only if the main opposition party — CPN-UML — backs the motion.
Among the lawmakers who have signed the impeachment motion against Rana are NC lawmakers Gagan Thapa, Minendra Rijal, and Pushpa Bhusal, CPN-MC lawmaker Dev Prasad Gurung, and CPN (Unified Socialist) lawmaker Jeevan Ram Shrestha. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-MC Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and CPN (Unified Socialist) Madhav Kumar Nepal have, however, not signed the motion.
Talking to mediapersons at the Parliament Secretariat, Minister of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs Dilendra Prasad Badu said they had to file the impeachment motion after the executive’s formal and informal efforts to save the sanctity of the judiciary and its image failed to yield results.
“We tried our best within the bounds of separation of powers but our pleas were ignored,” Badu said in reference to the executive’s call for the CJ’s resignation. He said now it was up to lawmakers to take a call on the impeachment motion. Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota has called an-all party meeting tomorrow to discuss the impeachment motion.
Assistant Spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat Dasharath Dhamala said the speaker would move the impeachment process ahead after consulting the issue with other political parties. National Assembly member Radhe Shyam Adhikari, who is also a senior advocate, said the ruling alliance had taken the right step, albeit late, to impeach Rana, who had failed to lead the judiciary.
“Since all other 19 justices of the SC have refused to share bench with Rana, the ruling alliance should have initiated this move much earlier,” Adhikari added.