Rana’s failed coupExtreme caution is needed while appointing the next Supreme Court leader.
Cholendra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana is back again—and with a bang as always. Early in 2022, he gave one controversial statement after another during his impeachment interrogation. And when he tried to enter the Supreme Court forcibly, he created much hullabaloo. As the country got busy with festivals and elections, everyone seemed to have forgotten Rana as he went about his business without much fuss. Or so it seemed. But if anyone thought he would quietly slide into oblivion, Rana has proven them wrong—and how! When everyone got busy celebrating cultural and political festivals, Rana was apparently working on the sly, like a woodpecker pecking a tree when it’s dark all around.
With the tenure of Parliament running its course and the new one yet to begin, Rana seemed to have found the transitional period a perfect opportunity to stage a comeback. So he got Bharat Raj Gautam, the general secretary of Parliament, to write a letter that the impeachment motion against him had become null and void, and that he could return to work at the Supreme Court. The validity of a letter sent by a bureaucrat with no authority to allow a suspended chief justice back needs little debating, as it stands no chance of being recognised by the Supreme Court. What’s more, Gautam risks facing the music for overstepping his mandate to work at Rana’s behest.
Apart from the absurdity of Rana’s misadventures, though, distressing reports have surfaced about the potential involvement of top political parties in the sordid affair. It is hard to imagine that a bureaucrat with little executive power would dare annul the highly controversial impeachment motion against a tainted top bureaucrat without strong political backing. As per Kantipur daily, Rana had met CPN-UML Chairperson KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday to seek his support and had also intimated Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist Centre Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal about his intention of attending office, even if for a day. If true, this amounts to nothing less than a tacit attempt to whitewash Rana’s wrongdoing just a few days ahead of the formal end of his tenure as chief justice.
Top leaders should come clean on this, as this fans suspicions that nobody wants to be seen close to Rana, but everyone might be hands-in-glove with him when it comes to weakening the foundations of democracy. For his last-minute arrangement with the top leaders would imply that they all had at one or other time curried undue favours from the suspended chief justice. It takes years, even decades, to build institutions, and a few individuals cannot be allowed to weaken them for personal benefit. Even if the suspended chief justice gets one final chance to return to the Supreme Court—an unlikely scenario as it stands—he has impinged on the prestige of the judiciary and people’s trust in it. As Rana goes into oblivion next week after taking Nepalis on a roller-coaster ride, his misadventures should serve as a reminder to the Constitutional Council and the next Parliament that they should be extremely careful in recommending who leads the Supreme Court next.