Bar ups the ante as court crisis deepens. Lawyers not to let Rana enter officeConfrontation escalates after up to six lawyers got injured in a scuffle with police while protesting against the chief justice who refuses to resign despite mounting pressure.
The judiciary drama has taken a new turn. After Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana went on the offensive, putting justices under moral pressure, lawyers have upped the ante. And on Thursday, there was a scuffle between lawyers and police.
At least six lawyers, including office bearers of the Nepal Bar Association, sustained minor injuries in the scuffle. The Nepal Bar Association reacted with some stern protest programmes. It has decided to stop Rana from entering the Supreme Court on Friday.
“We have decided to stop the chief justice from entering the Supreme Court on Friday,” said Rakshya Basyal, vice-chair of the Nepal Bar Association, who was one of the five lawyers injured during Thursday’s scuffle with police. “We have changed our protest plan after today’s incident.”
The scuffle on Thursday ensued when security personnel tried to stop lawyers from organising a protest on the premises of the Supreme Court.
Lawyers’ decision to intensify their protests and bar the chief justice from entering his office may offer some respite to justices who are now under scrutiny for not hearing cases, thereby depriving the public of their right to get justice.
Multiple justices over the past days have told the Post that it has become increasingly uncomfortable for them to continue boycotting the benches on various pretexts. They have not officially announced to boycott benches but have been avoiding hearings in the name of holding meetings.
Chief Justice Rana on his part has started assigning cases to them. After making a cause list of 298 cases on Tuesday, Rana on Thursday assigned 177 cases. Except for six habeas corpus petitions and six allocated for himself, none were heard on Thursday.
The Nepal Bar Association on Thursday said that lawyers will not participate in hearings of even habeas corpus cases.
“We warn the chief justice, who has not only been abandoned by his own court and legal professionals but also the general people, that the Nepal Bar and its units would be forced to come up with even sterner forms of protest,” reads a press statement issued by the Nepal Bar Association undersigned by its general secretary Lilamani Poudel. “We will boycott all the benches of the Supreme Court. We want to make an appeal to all justices not to hear cases on Friday. We call upon all legal professionals to gather at the Supreme Court by 9:30 am on Friday.”
With Nepal Bar piling more pressure on the chief justice, who has so far refused to step down, confrontation in the judiciary is likely to escalate further.
Supreme Court justices and lawyers have been saying that Chief Justice Rana is the source of all the ills in the judiciary and that under his watch corruption has thrived. Rana, on his part, has maintained that if he were to step down, other justices too must resign.
Anup Raj Sharma, a former chief justice, said that the chief justice has invited more confrontation by allowing security forces on the premises of the Supreme Court.
“Presence of security forces on the court premises indicates we are in a pretty bad situation,” Sharma told the Post. “The situation is going from bad to worse.”
After Thursday’s scuffle between the police and lawyers, personnel from the Armed Police Force were sent to the Supreme Court.
According to Sharma, four former chief justices are preparing to issue a statement to condemn Thursday’s scuffle between the police and lawyers. The four former chief justices include Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Sharma, Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki.
The four former chief justices had earlier on January 8 also issued a statement describing the then prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve the Parliament as unconstitutional and asking the judiciary to make a prudent decision. They had faced a contempt charge for issuing the statement.
Sharma said the former chief justices are also planning a talk programme where political parties and civil society members would be invited to speak on the current crisis in the judiciary.
Political parties have not spoken yet on the ongoing crisis in the judiciary, arguing that a solution to it should be found from within. Calls, however, have been growing that parties must take up the issue and file an impeachment motion against Chief Justice Rana so as to maintain the sanctity and dignity of the judiciary.
While the ruling alliance, which is made up of five parties, does not appear to be keen on making a move against Rana, the main opposition CPN-UML appears to be rallying behind him.
Krishna Jung Rayamajhi, a former Supreme Court justice, who has expressed his concerns about people getting affected by the crisis in the judiciary, said that Thursday’s incident could complicate the matter further.
“There is a need to find a solution to the current crisis at the earliest,” Rayamajhi told the Post. “On the one hand, the public is deprived of justice. On the other hand, the conflict is escalating. For how long can we have this situation? If this problem is not addressed soon, people will lose their faith in the judiciary, which will mean a complete system failure.”