Industry Minister Gajendra Hamal has resigned 40 hours after appointment. Hamal has said he has resigned listening to his conscience after widespread criticism of the appointment. Baluwatar has tried to spin the resignation by Hamal of his own volition to save its face. The press note issued by Baluwatar mentions that Hamal has resigned on request of Prime Minister (PM) Sher Bahadur Deuba even as audio recording of Hamal requesting to broadcast/publish the issue through the media pointing that Deuba may reject his resignation has been made public.
One fact has been irrefutably established despite all the efforts of damage control by Baluwatar. The democracy in Nepal has been attacked in an unimaginable manner last week.
Politicians and people in the judiciary can some time commit mistakes in course of work and do work that should not be done. But the deed of PM Deuba and Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana with consent of the top leaders of ruling coalition is an unthinkable crime in democracy. CJ seeking share of spoils in the government and the ruling parties accepting that is unimaginable in democracy.
The main source of this misdeed is CJ Rana, and his unconstitutional aspirations. Rana had the temerity to seek a share in power violating the sanctity of judiciary believing he can do anything he wishes.
The ruling coalition should have strongly resisted this impudence by CJ Rana. But the coalition easily accepted his demand reflecting at once the gratitude of the coalition toward some of the past verdicts by CJ and fear that he may put the government in another crisis.
Rana has been enjoying the fallout of the havoc he has wreaked from the sacred chair of CJ and making mockery of democracy. It is not hard to see that Rana has been influencing the court’s verdicts in a way that benefits one party or another, and reaping political benefits for that.
Two major verdicts by the Supreme Court (SC) in cases related to political parties are now under suspicion. The SC verdict to revoke unification of CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) restoring the two parties to the state before unification in a case related to the unified party using name of another registered party was against the Constitution, laws and jurisdiction of the judiciary. That verdict was unimaginable.
The refusal by the SC to issue an interim order in the case against the ordinance making splitting of parties easier issued hastily by the Deuba government after suddenly ending the House session, and subsequent delay in issuing final verdict in the case have also raised suspicions. Every government has undermined the parliament by bringing ordinance and tampered with laws for its vested interests. There will be no meaning of democratic norms of the people’s representatives formulating laws and the rule of law if that is not controlled.
The SC recently had revoked the ordinance brought by the KP Oli government to amend the act related to citizenship immediately after dissolving the House. The court had done a commendable job of curbing the autocratic tendency of the executive to rule through ordinances by avoiding the parliament. The final verdict in that case would have set a good precedent and curbed abuse of powers bolstering democracy and rule of law.
But the SC has again treaded the wrong path in the case related to the ordinance about splitting of parties. The SC has blatantly ignored the precedent it established in the ordinance related to citizenship. The double standard of the Apex Court in cases related to two similar ordinances has not just hit the credibility of the judiciary but raised suspicions that CJ Rana influences court verdicts to serve his immoral interests in connivance with political parties. CJ Rana has himself proved the suspicions to be true by accepting his share in Cabinet expansion.
Opposing such immoral acts of CJ is not opposing the judiciary or attacking the dignity of the court. The judiciary is not an individual justice or CJ, for that matter, who does not remain within the limits and disregards the sanctity of the judiciary.
Condemning such justices rather saves the judiciary and all those honest justices who continuously work with constitutional integrity and cannot even think about treading the path Rana has taken. Slamming Rana will save the justices who twice revived the House dissolved unconstitutionally by Oli going against Rana’s wishes. Criticizing Rana will safeguard the public trust over those very justices who have not participated in the political dealmaking of Rana.
We should not forget here that CJ Rana agreed to reinstate the House for the first time only after three justices in the five-strong constitutional bench stood for House reinstatement. Two justices refused to stay in the constitutional bench formed by CJ Rana in the case against the second dissolution by Oli. The rest of the justices then forced Rana to constitute the bench on the basis of seniority. The constitutional bench formed on the basis of seniority then reinstated the House.
The current transgression by Rana has provided an opportunity to UML leaders to claim that the verdict for House reinstatement was also given on the basis of political machination. Rana in this way has not just dragged other SC justices working with honesty and integrity into suspicion but also gravely reduced the credibility of the judiciary.
CJ Rana would have deserved impeachment if politicians at the top were not complicit in such grave crimes. Merely demanding share in government would be sufficient to impeach a CJ in a well-functioning democracy. But our politicians are so lowly and decadent that they are condemned to fulfilling the quota demanded by CJ in appointments in the government and constitutional bodies. Oli gave Rana share in appointments in constitutional bodies when he was PM. Deuba gave Rana a share even in the Cabinet this time.
Our politicians will not muster moral courage to impeach Rana due to this background. The responsibility to resist the immoral deeds of Rana is now on the judiciary itself. The SC justices, the Nepal Bar Association, and the SC Bar Association must seriously carry out consultations. Such incidents erode the legitimacy of democracy and undermine rule of law, and the courageous stand of people with integrity and honesty at such times will instill life in democracy and save democracy.
Nepali Congress (NC) that considers itself to be the mother of parliamentary democracy in Nepal and its leaders and cadres also have a huge responsibility. Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who does not respect or believe in parliamentary democracy a bit, defending Hamal’ appointment is not surprising because he believes all the means toward climbing to power and staying are fair. But NC leaders and cadres should seriously contemplate whether corruption of the executive by an immoral and whimsical CJ is acceptable in parliamentary democracy or not? Whether the party president who has committed such a grave attack and crime against democracy is acceptable or not? Whether the party president can continue to lead the party and government in the coming days or not? Why should the Nepali people bear with Deuba who undermines democracy, Constitution and the party ideals every time he reaches power even if the party leaders and cadres consider him fit to be party president? Why should NC under Deuba again be sent to the government?
The coming days will show how people in the judiciary retaliate against CJ’s arbitrariness or those in NC will resist Deuba. But one thing is absolutely clear. Deuba and Rana, and not Hamal, are the ones who should be punished in this episode. The attack on democracy by PM Deuba and CJ Rana, who have repeatedly failed to maintain clean image even in the past, this time has plummeted their image to the nadir of ignominy. History will not absolve them of this ignominy.