Calls grow louder to impeach Chief Justice RanaVerdict to commute a wife murderer’s sentence erodes people’s trust in judiciary, legal practitioners say.
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to commute the prison sentence handed to Ranjan Koirala, a former deputy inspector general of Armed Police Force, convicted for the murder of his wife, has triggered an outcry among people from various walks of life demanding the impeachment of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana.
“Hundreds of youths from different sections of society gathered at Maitighar Mandala to show their concern over the verdict and demand the impeachment of the chief justice,” Usha Kiran Timsena, a youth leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) said.
On June 29, a bench comprising Chief Justice Cholendra Sumsher Rana and Justice Tej Bahadur KC passed a verdict on the Koirala case and shortened the life imprisonment sentence ordered by a lower court by 11 years. The former police officer was released from the Dillibazar prison on Thursday following the verdict.
The Office of the Attorney General on Thursday filed a petition for review at the Supreme Court but it is yet to make a decision on whether to accept the petition.
“The country hasn’t seen this level of public reaction against the judiciary,” said Bhimarjun Acharya, a constitutional lawyer. “This is a very serious matter.”
While members of the public and some public figures took to social media to criticise the verdict, which paved the way for Koirala to walk free from jail 11 years before his scheduled release date, others took to the streets.
The dignity of the Supreme Court is in question, according to former Supreme Court justice Balaram KC.
“Did lawmakers with the right to unseat the chief justice through impeachment like the Supreme Court’s decision on Ranjan Koirala?” asked senior advocate Hari Prasad Uprety.
Even lawmakers from the ruling party have joined the protests. “The verdict in favour of murderer Ranjan Koirala is akin to the murder of justice, and it is a crime. Impeachment is necessary,” Nabina Lama, a lawmaker from the ruling party, tweeted.
However, the ruling party has not discussed the impeachment motion yet as the government has filed a review petition over the controversial verdict.
“Currently the review process is underway, but the party could also think of the impeachment option if the Supreme Court refuses to review the case,” said Dev Gurung, chief whip of the ruling communist party’s legislative wing.
Advocate Swagat Nepal said the Independent National Campaign, an organisation of professionals including doctors, engineers and lawyers, would continue their protests demanding impeachment of Chief Justice Rana.
“If the Supreme Court reviewed the verdict of the chief justice, it will prove that the verdict was ill-intentioned and therefore the demand for his impeachment will be raised more strongly,” Nepal said.
“To save the judiciary, we now need to launch an investigation into the recent appointments of the justices and manage legal and constitutional provisions to re-appoint in their places,” said Acharya.
Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai also demanded that the justices be impeached for “protecting crime”, in a tweet.
A number of youths and intellectuals gathered at the Maitighar Mandala and chanted slogans such as “End Corruption in Judiciary”, “Maintain rule of law”; “Ensure justice to the victim”, and “Justice must not be sold” besides demanding impeachment of the chief justice.
Timsena, who coordinated the spontaneous protest, said the Koirala case erodes the public’s trust in the judiciary.
Article 101 (2) of the constitution states that one-fourth of the members of the House of Representatives may move a motion of impeachment against the chief justice or any other judge serving at the Supreme Court on the ground that they failed to fulfil their duties of office by violating the constitution or failed to discharge their duties honestly.
According to the constitution, if the motion is passed by a two-thirds majority of the members of the House of Representatives, the concerned person shall be relieved of their office.