Supreme Court slams the door shut on suspended Chief Justice RanaSome advocates say Rana impeachment motion is alive and new House will take it up.
The Supreme Court on Friday thwarted an attempt by suspended Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana to resume office before retiring. Rana retires on the grounds of age on Tuesday.
Acting on Rana’s application, Bharat Raj Gautam, the general secretary of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday had written to the authorities concerned saying that Rana’s suspension based on the impeachment motion filed in the previous House of Representatives had become invalid following the election of the new House of Representatives. Gautam had argued that his earlier letter of February 13 that led to Rana’s suspension following the introduction of the impeachment motion had become ineffective.
Following the registration of the impeachment motion by 98 lawmakers from the ruling parties, Gautam had on February 13 written to the President’s Office, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, the Constitutional Council, the Supreme Court and the Judicial Council—informing them that Rana was suspended the same day. Gautam’s decision to invalidate the suspension on Wednesday drew widespread criticism from legal and political circles.
However, the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court on Friday, acting on a writ petition, ordered the authorities concerned not to implement Gautam’s decision to invalidate Rana’s suspension until another verdict.
The bench also issued a show cause notice against Rana and Gautam seeking their clarification on why the decision to invalidate Rana’s suspension should not be scrapped. The two have seven days to answer while Rana retires in the next four days.
The petitioners had asked for an interim order to stop the execution of Gautam's decision and scrapping of his decision. “Furnish a written answer as to why an order shouldn't be issued as per the petitioners’ demand,” reads the interim order. It has asked the Parliament Secretariat to furnish its clarification through the Office of the Attorney General, while asking Rana to present his either in person or via a representative.
The court had on Friday formed the five-member Constitutional Bench led by Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki with Justices Bhishwombhar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Anil Kumar Sinha as members to hear the petition.
Six senior advocates had presented their arguments during the first hearing on Friday.
Arguing before the bench, senior advocate Tika Bhattarai claimed Rana’s suspension would get continuity into the new House as the impeachment motion against him was still alive. He also argued that the constitutional provision that the bills do not carry over to the new House doesn’t apply to impeachment motions.
The regulation of the House of Representatives also does not stop the impeachment motion from being transferred to the new House. “Bills are part of legislative wisdom which can change going into a new parliament,” he said, adding, “The impeachment, however, is a judicial function of the parliament. One accused of an impeachable offense, therefore, is either impeached or gets a clean chit. The motion is very much alive until the House takes a decision on the matter.”
The advocates have argued that Gautam breached his jurisdiction in issuing the letter scrapping Rana’s suspension.
Senior advocate and chairperson of the Supreme Court Bar Purna Man Shakya said Gautam acted as the final decision-maker in the House. “The general secretary of the parliament doesn’t have that authority,” he said. “Gautam’s decision is therefore malicious.”
Rana on Tuesday had written to the Parliament Secretariat requesting it to inform the authorities concerned to allow him to resume his work, stating that the impeachment motion registered in the previous House is now dead.
“The earlier letter from the [parliament’s] general secretary that had barred honourable Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana from performing his duties has become ineffective with the conduct of the elections to the new House of Representatives on November 20,” said Gautam’s decision. “The impeachment motion has also become ineffective as the process did not move ahead even after the Impeachment Motion Recommendation Committee submitted its report following an investigation after the motion was filed and initial discussions were held at the [then] House of Representatives.”
Following Gautam’s decision, Rana on Wednesday announced that he would be returning to the court. He, however, didn’t make any attempt to enter the court on Thursday after lawyers associated with the Nepal Bar Association blocked all its entrances.
The advocates had also demanded action against Gautam for breaching his jurisdiction. However, no order to this effect was issued.
The final hearing will start after Rana and Gautam furnish their clarifications.