Four justices return to benches as lawyers continue their protest against chief justiceHearings on petitions other than habeas corpus resumed after three weeks. Other agitating justices have yet to decide on their next move.
At least four of the Supreme Court justices who had launched a campaign against Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana about three weeks ago have returned to attend the benches, just as lawyers have continued their protest demanding Rana’s resignation.
Of the 16 justices present at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, two division benches, one of Bam Kumar Shrestha and Manoj Kumar Sharma, and the other of Tej Bahadur KC and Kumar Regmi, heard four and 28 cases respectively, according to the cause list prepared by the chief justice for the day.
A division bench of Prakash Kumar Dhungana and Kumar Chudal heard one habeas corpus petition.
Chief Justice Rana on Tuesday had assigned 279 cases to 10 benches–eight division benches and two single benches–for the 16 justices. He, however, has not assigned any cases to himself.
Since the justices launched their protest, they had not heard a single case except for habeas corpus petitions for the last three weeks.
“Four justices have started hearing cases other than habeas corpus petitions as well from today,” said Devendra Dhakal, information officer at the Supreme Court.
On Monday, five justices–Tej Bahadur KC, Bam Bahadur Shrestha, Kumar Regmi, Manoj Kumar Sharma and Kumar Chudal–had decided not to join the meetings of the agitating justices and lawyers and start hearing cases from Tuesday.
The justices’ decision follows letters from the Nepal Bar Association, the umbrella organisation of the lawyers across the country, requesting all Supreme Court judges not to return to the benches.
The justices who returned to the benches on Tuesday refused to attend a meeting called by the Nepal Bar Association and Supreme Court Bar Association on Monday, arguing that there was no point in sitting for talks that were not yielding any result.
The Supreme Court currently has 20 justices, including the chief justice.
All of them had on October 25 had refused to attend a meeting called by Rana, marking the beginning of their protest against the chief justice. The Supreme Court Bar Association and Nepal Bar Association then joined hands to demand Rana’s resignation, alleging that he is the source of all the ills in the judiciary.
Rana has maintained that he would not step down because there were calls for his resignation and that he would rather face the constitutional procedure, meaning an impeachment motion. An impeachment motion against the chief justice can be filed by lawmakers in the Parliament, but parties have not made any move.
The four justices returned to the benches on Tuesday a day after Rana issued a statement calling on all legal professionals to sort the differences out through dialogue.
Lawyers, however, said that Rana’s resignation is their bottom line.