Cholendra Shumsher Rana became the second Chief Justice of Nepal to face “impeachment” procedure in Parliament in seven years over allegations of corruption. Based on earlier precedence, CJ Rana has been “suspended” pending final disposal of the case, and Dipak Karki, the senior most judge in the Supreme Court has taken over as the acting CJ. The sudden development followed a swift and secret operation where signatures of 98 Members of Parliament belonging to Nepali Congress, Unified Socialists and Maoist Centre were collected and submitted in the Parliament secretariat in the morning.
The country’s main opposition party, Nepal Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, has called for a party meeting on Monday where it is likely to decide the list of judges it wants “impeached”.
Nepal’s judiciary, which has largely been under the control or influence of political parties, especially in the past 15 years, has been a victim of political onslaught and extreme action by parliament at times.
There are speculation that the sudden decision of the three parties, which were so far divided on whether or not to endorse the 500 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Nepal compact, have come together in its favour, and exit of CJ Rana was a price the junior coalition partners — Unified socialists and Maoist centre— asked for.
Unlike the practices in other democracies, where the presiding officer of parliament forms a committee to go into charges labelled, in Nepal, a mere notice of impeachment by not less than 25 per cent of the total strength of the House leads to automatic suspension of the person holding the constitutional position.
Rana, however, had not anticipated the sudden signature drive against him as political parties had refused to accept the demand of the Nepal Bar Association to initiative proceedings so far. “We thought the strike was affecting the image of the Supreme Court and the best course to take would be moving an impeachment motion,” Law Minister Dilendra Badu said.