Contemptible actionsThe Supreme Court (SC) acted in a hurry on Monday in ordering the arrest of Dr Govinda KC, who had made statements that the SC perceived as contempt of court.
The Supreme Court (SC) acted in a hurry on Monday in ordering the arrest of Dr Govinda KC, who had made statements that the SC perceived as contempt of court. Whether what the good doctor said amounted to contempt of court will be debated for a long time to come. However, what makes the whole move look even more sordid is that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said on Monday night that he wasn’t even aware of the SC order. Since the PM also runs the Home Ministry, which is responsible for Nepal Police, events leading to the arrest clearly did not follow due procedure.
To get to the matter at hand, we need to revisit aspects of the medical sector reform protest led by Dr KC that has been going on for many years now. In January 2014, Dr KC went on a fast-unto-death to protest against government complicity over malpractices in granting affiliation to medical colleges, with it ending in 14 days after the government agreed to his demands—chief of them being the sacking of the then Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IoM), Dr Shashi Sharma. Dr KC’s allegations against Dr Sharma and his sacking by the government came after his alleged links to the ‘medical mafia’ that was running the affiliation racket. Dr Sharma filed a writ with the SC challenging his sacking on February 13, 2014 but then Chief Justice Sushila Karki denied issuance of an interim order that would have voided the firing.
Four years have passed since then. Dr Govinda KC has continued to protest, including going on more hunger strikes, to reform numerous aspects within the health care and medical education sector. But people with vested interests against reforms have been actively trying to oppose the good doctor’s protests.
On January 7, a division bench of Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli and Justice Deepak Kumar Karki issued an order reversing the government’s sacking of Dr Shashi Sharma. This has paved the way for Dr Sharma to reclaim the title of Dean of IoM (until he retires on January 14). Dr KC, in retaliation, started his 14th hunger strike to-date on Monday. This time, he has demanded the resignation of Chief Justice Parajuli, saying that decisions like the one reinstating Dean Sharma set a bad precedent that could squander any gains made in health education reform over the past few years. He also has accused the judiciary of serving the interests of medical college owners and the medical ‘mafia’.
Dr KC has risked his life time and again to push for the much-needed reforms in medical education. To take this peace-loving, anti-corruption crusader into custody, and to summon him to court over contempt charges while he is just exercising his constitutional right to free speech is a poor decision. Moreover, Nepal Police arresting a man with no prior criminal charges, and with what seems like a direct order from the court without information passed to the government makes it seem like the judiciary has overreached.