Former chief justices respond to the Supreme Court, say their statement does not amount to contempt of courtThe court had sought reply in writing from four former justices over their January 8 statement in which they called Oli’s House dissolution move unconstitutional.
Four former chief justices have said that exercising their right to freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution cannot be a contempt of court.
Of the four former chief justices, Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki–have furnished a joint response while Anup Raj Sharm has furnished a separate response.
A single bench of Justice Manoj Kumar Sharma on January 28 had asked the four former justices to reply in writing over their January 8 statement in which they had said that the Constitution of Nepal doesn’t allow the Oli government to dissolve the House of Representatives..
Reiterating that the executive’s move of dissolving the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, all four former chief justices have said the petition accusing them of committing contempt of court must be annulled as there was no explanation on how and on what basis the press statement was tantamount to contempt of court.
“It’s not that as a legal practitioner the freedom of expression should be blocked on the issues of justice,” states the joint response of the three former chief justices. “International standards including the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct have stated that even the incumbent legal practitioners can form organisations, gatherings, and express their opinions using their inherent right to freedom.”
The former justices have said if the court wanted to establish that public debate should be banned on sub-judice case as demanded by the writ petitioners, all the intellectuals, writers, journalists, legal experts, politicians and general public who are currently debating the House dissolution issue should be punished for contempt of court which is not acceptable as per freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution.
In his response, former chief justice Sharma has said the writ petitioners seemed to have filed the petition just for cheap popularity with an ill-intention.
“Since human rights, fundamental rights, independent judiciary, rule of law and good governance are the matters of my concern, it is obvious that I would comment on an issue like the House dissolution which is of public concern,” Sharma has said in his response. “The statement issued after analyzing the articles mentioned by the executive head and seeing that it was unconstitutional, it cannot be contempt of court.”
On January 27, two separate contempt of court cases were filed at the Supreme Court by advocates Lochan Bhattarai and Dhanjit Basnet claiming that the joint press statement of the four former chief justices on the sub-judice case amounts to contempt of court.
The retired chief justices on January 8 had made a joint statement saying that the Constitution of Nepal doesn’t allow the Oli government to dissolve the House of Representatives.
In the statement, the former chief justices had said that the articles that have been cited for the dissolution of the House don’t empower the prime minister to do so.
“Article 76 of Nepal’s constitution does not have any provision for dissolving the House unless for the purpose of forming a Council of Ministers but the House of Representatives is found to have been dissolved by invoking articles which don’t attract the move,” the former chief justices had stated.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari had dissolved the House on December 20 on the recommendation of the Oli government that had cited Articles 85, 76 (1), 76 (7).