Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana has agreed to constitute the constitutional bench hearing the petitions related to the House dissolution on the basis of seniority.
CJ Rana has pledged so during the full court meeting of Supreme Court (SC) justices on Friday. He brought a proposal to amend the provision regarding constituting constitutional bench requiring it to be formed on the basis of seniority.
But the fellow justices pointed that the regulation for forming the constitutional bench need not be amended immediately and CJ Rana can form the bench on the basis of seniority exercising the discretionary powers he current has. "We advised that we can make the amendment along with other court-related regulations if needed," a justice told Setopati after the meeting. "We pointed that the constitutional bench can be formed on the basis of seniority and the next senior most in the roster can replace if any of the five in the bench cannot hear the case or is on a leave."
CJ Rana agreed to constitute the constitutional bench to hear the petitions related to the House dissolution on the basis of seniority after that, according to the justice, saying 'I may as well do that'.
CJ Rana had also told the representatives of Supreme Court (SC) Bar Association who met him Tuesday that he will amend the regulation for operation of the Supreme Court (SC) to form the constitutional bench on the basis of seniority but later told fellow justices that he will do so only in subsequent cases and not in the one about House dissolution.
He has been forced to relent after Justices Deepak Kumar Karki and Ananda Mohan Bhattarai quit the bench he had constituted following refusal by Justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tej Bahadur KC to recuse writing that the case about CPN unification is related to the House dissolution.
The 13-strong roster for constitutional bench includes Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana, and Justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Meera Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki, Bishwambhar Shrestha, Ishwore Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, Anil Sinha, Prakash Singh Raut, Sapana Pradhan Malla, Tej Bahadur KC, Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tanka Bahadur Moktan in the decreasing order of seniority.
CJ Rana, and Justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Meera Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki and Bishwambhar Shrestha will be in the constitutional bench if it is constituted on the basis of seniority.
Bishwambhar Shrestha, who is in the top-five in terms of seniority, is currently recovering from COVID-19 and Ishwore Prasad Khatiwada will replace him. Ananda Mohan Bhattarai will replace Hari Krishna Karki, who had recused himself from the case about dissolution of the House on December 20 after advocates raised questions about his presence in the bench pointing he was attorney general when KP Sharma Oli first became prime minister five years ago, again opts for recusal.
Lawyers pleading on behalf of the petitioners have been protesting against presence of Justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tej Bahadur KC in the constitutional bench hearing the petitions related to the House dissolution.
Shrestha was part of the joint bench also including Kumar Regmi that invalidated the unification of CPN on March 7 reinstating CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) to the state before their unification while KC was part of the bench that refused to review that verdict.