No ground to charge ex-chief justices with contempt of court, top court observesFormer chief justices Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Anup Raj Sharma, Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki were facing contempt of court over a January 8 statement against Oli’s December 20 House dissolution.
The Supreme Court on Friday said that there were not enough grounds to charge four former chief justices with contempt of court and quashed the petitions that were filed around eight months ago.
Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana and Justice Sapata Pradhan Malla observed that the statement issued by Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Anup Raj Sharma, Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki on January 8 in relation to the December 20, 2020 House dissolution by erstwhile KP Sharma Oli government did not amount to contempt of court. The retired chief justices had issued the statement when the Supreme Court was testing the constitutionality of Oli’s House dissolution decision.
Two separate contempt of court cases were filed against the four former chief justices on January 27.
Responding to the petition, a single bench of Justice Manoj Sharma on January 28 summoned the four former chief justices, asking them to be present in person with clarifications as to why they should not be punished for contempt of court.
Accordingly, the four former chief justices had furnished their clarifications before the court on February 15.
Om Prakash Aryal, one of the advocates who argued on behalf of the four former chief justices, told the Post that the Supreme Court on Friday said that there was not enough ground to convict the former chief justices for contempt of court.
Advocates Lochan Bhattarai and Dhanjit Basnet had registered separate cases against former chief justices, arguing that their statement was an attempt to influence a sub-judice case.
“The bench observed that the statement issued by four former chief justices has not obstructed the judicial process,” said Aryal.
Besides Aryal, advocates Harihar Dahal, Shambhu Thapa, Chandrakanta Gyawali, Mohana Ansari, Prakash Maharjan and Pundevi Maharjan presented their arguments on behalf of the former chief justices.
In their joint statement, the retired chief justices said that Oli’s decision to dissolve the House was constitutional.
In their response to the court, they had reiterated that the executive’s move of dissolving the House was unconstitutional and that the petitions accusing them of committing contempt of court needed to be annulled as there was no explanation of how and on what basis the statement amounted to contempt of court.
“It’s not that as a legal practitioner the freedom of expression should be blocked on the issues of justice,” stated 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 said that if the court wanted to establish that public debate should be banned on sub-judice cases as demanded by the petitioners, all the intellectuals, writers, journalists, legal experts, politicians and the 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 separate response, former chief justice Sharma had said the petitioners appeared to have filed the petitions just for cheap popularity with an ill-intention.