In 2012 March, Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi also became the Prime Minister heading an ‘electoral government’ that had ministers from political parties. This not only injected political ambition into the minds of his successor CJs, but also brought the judiciary under the shadow of the Executive and political parties.
Sushila Karki, during her hearing for confirmation by a parliamentary committee to the post of Chief Justice, had said that she was not averse to people with political affiliation coming to the benches. “But they must take their political shoes off before.” One of the judges appointed then was an MP from the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, now in opposition, and evidently, with larger control over the apex court.
Altogether 249 members of the House, belonging to the ruling Nepali Congress and Maoists, submitted an ‘impeachment motion’ against CJ Karki, leading to her instant suspension, alleging among other things that she lacked ‘judicial conduct’. Interestingly, K P Oli, leader of the UML, has warned that consequence will be serious if the motion was not withdrawn by tomorrow: the judiciary has now triggered political polarisation.
Karki is known and respected for ‘probity’ but has often played favourite in the court by allotting major cases to her ‘favorites’, sometimes to judges with a clear ‘conflict of interest’. She also annoyed some senior judges by reversing their past verdicts on the ground that there were ‘grave errors’ in judgment earlier without any fresh evidence being produced.
While it might take a while for the impeachment motion to be settled, Karki is unlikely to return to the court as she may have to remain under suspension for the remaining five weeks of her tenure,. But the court is already turning into an ’embattled zone’ , along political lines and the weapon of impeachment may be fired more indiscriminately in future, against any judge or those holding constitutional post.