Health should not be for wealth

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Binita Dahal

The putative putsch by the Nepali Congress this week to get the Maoists to abandon their alliance with the UML in the governing coalition has had far-reaching consequences.

It has brought fresh uncertainty about the new government, final fate of the Constitution, inclusion of dissatisfied Madhesi and Janajati elements into mainstream politics, endorsement of budget-related bills, long-delayed appointment of Supreme Court justices, ratification of ambassadorial appointees and, most urgently, meeting the demands of Govinda KC, the physician who has now been on a hunger strike for 13 days.

While the ruling and opposition parties are at loggerheads over whether to form a new government, the parties who are willing to do so are halting the process of the parliamentary hearing of the 11 justices nominated for Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will be a critical arena for writ petitions in the coming days since the rival parties are consulting legal experts about the constitutional crisis and the no-confidence motion in parliament. The Maoists and Nepali Congress do not want to start the hearing process of the 11 justices, since many of them are closer to the UML.

This delay also impacts on one of Govinda KC’s demands, which calls for the impeachment of Lokman Singh Karki, Chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Another contempt of court case against Karki is also sub judice in the Supreme Court, which has summoned him. If found guilty in the contempt case, Karki could even be suspended from his CIAA post.

Although assorted politicians, Speaker Onsari Gharti Magar and some members of Parliament’s Social Justice and Human Rights Committee visited the fasting doctor this week, the government has not bothered. Some of KC’s current demands persist from past hunger strikes, and include those that had been either ignored or only partially implemented.

On this eighth fast, some of KC’s demands are more serious and zero in directly on the source of interference and corruption in the medical education sector. KC has long known that Karki has a conflict of interest in medical education because of the involvement of his immediate family members in this lucrative sector. KC also knows full well that top politicians own or benefit monetarily from medical colleges, and they are beholden to Karki.

Hence, among his demands for health sector reform, KC is also asking for Karki’s impeachment. It is probably for this reason that parliament members and the government are not responding, because conceding to the impeachment process would invite Karki’s wrath. They also probably feel – rightly so – that cobbling together a two-thirds majority for impeachment is impossible in the current fractious climate.

Which is why the government finally formed a dialogue committee to mediate with KC on the eleventh day of his hunger strike. Headed by a bureaucrat, however, the committee has no power to address KC’s demands.

The popular young NC leader Gagan Thapa on Thursday filed a motion of urgent public importance to discuss KC’s demands in parliament. Nevertheless, his party has already decided to abstain from debating KC’s grievances. This is an indication of just how long a shadow Karki casts in the party.

Speaker Magar assured KC on Wednesday that she would take the initiative in parliament to address his demands. It is interesting that she had stopped by to meet Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and President Bidya Bhandari before seeing KC.

Govinda KC commands tremendous public respect and support for his selfless and lifelong devotion to healthcare for Nepal’s poor. The CIAA has used a pliant section of the media to publicise a counter-campaign by private hospital owners against KC’s demands, but the attempt to discredit him has come to naught.

As KC’s health deteriorates, a Health Bill that does not address any of his demands is awaiting ratification by parliament after the Cabinet passed it last week. Parliament needs to take a new look at the Bill and form a committee to investigate the abuse of authority by the CIAA Chief, in order to satisfy KC.

The new Constitution has a provision that one-fourth of the House of Representatives may table a motion to impeach the head of the CIAA for a serious violation of the Constitution, incompetence, misbehaviour or failure to discharge duties.

According to provision 101(3), a committee of 11 members can be formed in the House of Representatives to recommend charges of impeachment. For now, such a committee could easily be established.

KC’s past fasts have put pressure on stakeholders, but this time the government is wholly preoccupied with the formation of a new government. Public pressure on parliament is therefore important. We cannot afford to lose someone like Govinda KC, who has devoted his life to the health of the nation with no regard for his own.

Government officials and parliamentarians blame KC for getting the timing of his hunger strike wrong.

What is the right time to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all Nepalis, or to clean up the medical education sector?

 

This article was originally published in Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Legalese/Health-should-not-be-for-wealth,753)

The law and the media

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Binita Dahal

For the past year, the judiciary has often been mired in controversy. There was the decision in 2013 to appoint the Chief Justice as a caretaker prime minister to conduct elections, and the controversial move to appoint tainted judges to the Supreme Court.

Most of the criticism came from the legal fraternity and the media. But despite the hullabaloo, the appointments were approved by a parliamentary hearing. Stung by the uproar, the Supreme Court decided to strike back and make an example of Kantipur, Nepal’s widest circulated daily newspaper.

The parliamentary hearing of the Supreme Court judges recommended by the Judicial Council was sharply criticised by most media, starting with by the popular digital portal, Setopati. Kantipur then took up the subject by investigating the background of all the appointed justices. Even when the paper was slapped with a contempt of court against its group chairman, director, editor-in-chief and reporter, it continued its exposes.

During the first hearing of that case, Justice Cholendra Shamser Rana, who was one of the targets of the exposes, reviewed the sub-judice contempt case filed against Kantipur Group. In its second hearing Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli, whose past judgments and personal details were investigated by Kantipur, ordered publishers and editorial staff of Kantipur to appear in person to explain why they shouldn’t be convicted in contempt of court case.

Most rulings by the courts are not more than two pages, but Parajuli delivered a 11-page tome that tried to prove that Kantipur was on a deliberate crusade to tarnish the image of the independent judiciary.

It was apparent that the Supreme Court was flexing its muscles and warning all journalists by putting Nepal’s most powerful media on the dock. Kantipur itself used the occasion to project its own profile as a champion of press freedom. Last week, on the day of the hearing, it gathered 50 members of its staff, politicians and industrialists in the Supreme Court premises as a show of force.

It was as if the group wanted to influence the court decision by a demonstration of solidarity. It has now become a prestige issue for both the Supreme Court and Kantipur. The paper has reported the case against itself with prominence on the front pages, providing maximum national exposure of its own importance. The publication’s main argument was that the court started its final hearing with the same justices who had previously looked at the case.

Although the group’s lawyers were putting forward a valid legal point, this was a clear breach of provisions of coverage of cases that are subjudice. According to universal juridical principles, one should not try to influence the court directly or indirectly during the period that a case is being heard. The media’s role is to point out the wrongdoings of court, not to stage a demonstration in the court premises during a hearing.

Whatever the past wrongs of the court, the media should also be equally responsible not to undermine the dignity of the independent judiciary. The media cannot appear to be a law unto itself, and not required to abide by it. The aggressive and prominent reporting of the case against itself is also a misuse of media responsibility.

To be sure, the Judicial Committee bypassed candidates with integrity and proven track record for those with questionable pasts, to say the least, when appointing Supreme Court justices. The media did its job by exposing this, but to exact revenge through this contempt case the Supreme Court has gone after the largest target to threaten the rest of the media to behave itself.

It is hard to say which way the verdict will go next week. In the past, the Court has been liberal in contempt cases and journalists have just been slapped on the wrist and cautioned about the law on subjudice cases. This time, positions have hardened, and by its aggressive taunts Kantipur may have exceeded the media’s accepted behaviour in a country that is supposed to respect the rule of law.

@binitadahal

This article was originally published in Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/supreme-court-kantipur-contempt-of-court-case,1685)

Wombs for rent

Commercial surrogate motherhood is moving to Nepal because of restrictions in India

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Binita Dahal

After India tightened rules on commercial surrogacy two years ago, foreigners seeking such services have started trickling into Nepal where rules are murky and regulation weak.

Nepal’s cabinet decided recently to allow foreigners to have surrogate babies as long as the mother is also a foreigner, arguing that this would promote medical tourism in the country. Since then the Department of Immigration records show that many foreigners, including 20 Israelis, have had surrogate babies in private hospitals in Nepal.

Senior Advocate and Activist Sapana Pradhan Malla says many Nepali parents seek her legal advice on surrogacy. “I have no answer for them because there are no laws,” she told Nepali Times. “But I find it really suspicious that foreigners are allowed to have surrogate babies here when there is no provision for Nepalis.”

Activists are worried that in the absence of laws, the cabinet decision on surrogate babies can easily be circumvented. Nepali women could be exploited by unscrupulous middlemen and male relatives to carry and deliver babies for foreigners.

Compensated surrogacy is a process under which a woman rents her womb to another couple to have their baby delivered. There are two methods: one where the sperm is artificially inseminated into a surrogate mother, and in the other the sperm and egg from the parents first go through in-vitro fertilisation and the embryo is inserted into the uterus of the surrogate mother.

Doctors say both methods are done in fertility clinics in Nepal, but they don’t want to be quoted saying it. The lack of laws haven’t deterred many Nepali parents without children to secretly use surrogacy to have children in hospitals in Nepal and India, while Indian mothers routinely come to Nepal to give birth (see adjoining box).

After cases of fraud and exploitation, India’s Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill is now in parliament and will allow surrogacy only for married, infertile and Indian Origin couples.

“Many people think the act of surrogacy involves sexual intercourse so they are hesitant to talk about it,” says advocate Sadeep Kharel. “Doctors and hospitals keep quiet because surrogacy is illegal for Nepalis.”

The cabinet decision makes it easy for foreigners to be surrogate parents by processing exit permits for their babies born in Nepal: the Health Ministry writes a recommendation based on the birth certificate with DNA proof issued by hospitals to apply for a passport at the resident embassy.

 According to sources, the cabinet hurriedly decided last year on a draft on surrogacy prepared by the Health Ministry. Cabinet decisions are supposed to be in the public domain, but lawyers say the Health Ministry is reluctant to divulge details and provide a copy of the decision.

Praveen Mishra was secretary at the Ministry of Health in the previous government when the draft first came up for debate, and remembers facing intense political pressure to pass it. Mishra and Minister Bidhyadhar Mallik stood their ground, but with the new government the cabinet quickly approved it last August.

Sources say surrogacy in India and Nepal are managed by middlemen working with political protection, and there is a nexus between them and private hospitals. It is a question of supply and demand: there is a demand in rich countries for babies, and there is a supply of poor families in developing countries willing, and sometimes forcing, their women to become surrogate mothers.

Many European countries have banned surrogacy and it is strictly regulated and expensive in the United States. While it can cost up to $150,000 to have a surrogate baby in the West, in India and Nepal it can cost as little at $6,000 with the surrogate mother often not getting the money that her husband is paid as fee.

Commercialisation of motherhood through surrogacy is lucrative, but raises cultural, social, economic and political questions which are probably why Nepal’s private hospitals and the government are so hush-hush about it. “We must be careful not to allow surrogate mothers to be exploited as baby producers,” Sapana Pradhan Malla warns, “there must be laws in case mothers don’t want to give babies to parents, if babies are disabled, and about the legal status of the baby.”

There is one case of surrogacy which is sub-judice in the Supreme Court in a dispute about whether the baby born from a Nepali surrogate mother will get the parent’s property or not. This could be a landmark case in which the Court may direct the government to pass a new law for Nepali surrogate mothers.

But till then it will be women who will be more vulnerable to exploitation.

“Surrogacy is needed,” says Renu Adhikari of WOREC (Women’s Rehabilitation Centre), “but in the absence of proper laws it can lead to trafficking and women can be forced to go through with it for the money.”


Nargis’ baby

Twenty-seven year old Nargis came to Nepal six months ago from the slums of Mumbai. Her husband had left her after she gave birth to their first child after which she moved in with her parents. After her father died, she had to take care of the whole family.

“We were so poor there was no money to even feed my baby,” Nargis remembers. One day, her mother told her that she could make money renting her womb for nine months. She was introduced to a middleman who assured her there was no sexual intercourse involved, and she would earn $6,000 carrying and giving birth to someone else’s baby.

After she was convinced to go through with the procedure, she stayed in a Mumbai hospital for a month for her insemination procedure, and was discharged after she got pregnant. She was paid INR 6,000 per month for the duration of the pregnancy.

Nargis came to Nepal in her fourth month of pregnancy along with her own first born. She stayed at a hotel in Thamel with other surrogates like her who had come to give birth in Nepal because of restrictions in India.

Their agent advised them not to get emotionally attached to their babies as they had to be given away. Nargis gave birth via caesarean in a private hospital in Kathmandu, and was paid only $3,000. Still, she told us she will go through it again so she can send her own child to school.

Middlemen look for women between 25-30 in Mumbai’s slums, and convince their families to go through with surrogacy. The Indian agents get a $1,000 fee for every successful birth in Nepal.

“I don’t care if surrogacy is legal or illegal in India, but it is easier for a woman like me to deliver a baby in Nepal so no one finds out in Mumbai,” Nargis admitted. “Sometimes when I am alone, I look at the baby’s picture that the agent gave me. I never had the chance to be with him or breastfeed him. Still, I have less of an attachment to this baby than my own first child.”

Nargis is a pseudonym.

This article was originally published in Nepali Times  (http://nepalitimes.com/article/nation/wombs-tolet-surrogacy-nepal,1991)

Judicial match-fixing

By giving in to political pressure Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha has failed to uphold the integrity of the Judiciary

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Binita Dahal

After months of dithering, the Judicial Council finally nominated 11 justices to the Supreme Court this week. Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha, who heads the council, nominated seven sitting judges from the Appellate Court and four senior advocates.

They are Dipak Kumar Karki, Kedar Chalise, Meera Khadka, Sharada Prasad Ghimire, Hari Krishna Karki, Biswombar Prasad Shrestha, Ishwor Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, Anil Kumar Sinha, Prakash Raut and Sapana Pradhan Malla.

As per constitutional provisions, the senior-most Justice becomes the Chief Justice after the retirement of their predecessor. Which means Hari Krishna Karki, Bishwombar Prasad Shrestha, Prakash Raut and Sapana Pradhan Malla are next in line to be future Chief Justices.

This clearly shows that the members of the judicial council were very strategic in placing the nominees’ names in order of seniority. It also shows that there has been political manipulation in selecting the names and ranking them. It is like match-fixing in the judiciary.

This is deadly serious as the politically affiliated nominees will give verdicts according to their political affiliation, thus continuing to undermine the judiciary and the rule of law.

The Judicial Council apparently recommended political figures for the first time. Sapana Pradhan Malla, though highly regarded as one of the most competent female lawyers of her generation, has already played the role as the parliament member from CPN-UML. She is a member of that political party.

This means the principle that appointments to the Supreme Court must be non political and not from political cadres has been flouted and creates a precedence for future appointments. What is even more ironic is that it is Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha, known for his integrity and professionalism, who made this decision under his watch.

Shrestha got to lead the Supreme Court at a time when its image had been tarnished by two of his predecessors, and there were high expectations on the part of the Bar and Bench from him to do better. His predecessor, Damodar Prasad Sharma, was criticised for recommending some controversial figures to the Apex Court, and the person he replaced, Justice Ram Kumar Prasad Sah, was also similarly tarnished.

Unfortunately, like them, Shrestha also gave in to political pressure. Many career judges and senior advocates who are in line for Chief Justice were seen lobbying to be appointed both in the Judiciary and political parties. It is an irony, and a sign of the times, that we have seen career judges visit offices of political parties to thank the leadership for recommending their name to the Judicial Council. The current list as in the past has been made with some vested interests from the JC.

Whatever precedence he set in many of the human rights and women’s issues will now be forgotten because of his politically motivated appointments. Shrestha failed to exercise impartiality and reward judges for their merit and integrity.

The Judicial Council has brought in two women, two Newars and a Madhesi, but has failed to make its nominations truly inclusive under guidelines of the new constitution. It has also nominated only people from the judicial profession and not those with academic backgrounds, civil servants and the Attorney General’s office. There are also no senior advocates from outside Kathmandu.

It was comparatively easy for Chief Justice Shrestha to take the decision as only the law minister was from the political side in the Council. But he failed to seize the opportunity.

The Supreme Court which has a massive backlog of cases is waiting for some qualified and capable justices who are willing to give justice to the people, not ones who have political or personal ambitions.

This article was originally published in Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Legalese/judicial-match-fixing-Nepal,674)

Enter: Chief Justice Shrestha

Kalyan Shrestha has the challenging task of restoring the integrity of a tarnished Supreme Court, and protecting the separation of powers

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Binita Dahal

The recent decision by the Supreme Court that the existing Truth and Reconciliation Bill did not meet international standards for human rights and justice has sent shock waves through the establishment.

The two former warring sides are now part of the state, and they are on the same side when it comes to evading being answerable to wartime crimes. Predictably, the UCPN(M) and the CPN-M are the least happy with the verdict of the apex court. In fact, the latest collapse of the negotiations over the constitution and the announcement of a series ofstrikes next month by the Maoist-led opposition alliance is an attempt to show this displeasure.

They argue that wartime excesses should be under the jurisdiction of a future TRC, and asked for a repeal of the verdict. They and the other parties want the TRC to just be a dispenser of amnesties and pardons. When the members of the newly formed TRC went to meet the UCPN(M) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, he directly rejected any move to resolve conflict-era cases through the TRC for which he only wants a limited mandate.

According to the Supreme Court verdict, the TRC cannot investigate already pending cases in the courts and it cannot ask the government to withdraw cases and recommend for amnesty as well.

“We were confused initially about the parallel jurisdiction of the court and TRC but now it is clear that the already pending cases can only be solved by a court, not the Commission,” TRC Chair Surya Kiran Gurung told me last week.

The Supreme Court has struck down provisions in the TRC Act that gave the Commission the right to recommend amnesty to cases of serious human rights violations, and declared that no amnesty can be given without the consent of victims.

The latest verdict has cleared three points:

The TRC has no right to see and investigate the cases which are already pending in the court system.

Conflict era cases will be investigated by the TRC, but if it decides that the case must be filed in the courts then it will recommend this directly to the Attorney General and not through the Ministry of Law as cited in the Act. The Supreme Court has thus taken out the involvement of the government.

Victims consent is required for both reconciliation and amnesty. One of the main dissatisfaction among victims was the provision in the Act which gave the TRC the authority to grant amnesty. The SC verdicthas ruled out the TRC’s role in general amnesty.

Even if the Maoists urge the ruling parties to review the court’s verdict it is not easy for them to file a review petition. Previous SC verdicts have also ruled out political interference in the transitional justice mechanism. There are approximately 1,000 criminal cases from the conflict period pending in the court system and the District Police Office.

Advocate Raman Kumar Shrestha says the verdict will impact on the constitution drafting process since it will open all cases which are currently closed due to the absence of a TRC. As PM, Baburam Bhattarai made history in 2012 by withdrawing nearly 200 cases involving 1,700 people, according to the Ministry of Law. Now, all these cases can be re-opened, and that is why the Maoists are against the verdict.

Another fallout of the SC verdict is that it has brought the two factions of the Maoists closer together, with talks of reunification opening despite their serious differences. This is so that they can pool their combined strength to oppose the Supreme Court verdict. This opens up the question about what the real reasons were behind the split in the Maoists if they have a common stance on war crimes. Maoists of all factions and some sections of the ruling NC-UML combine would like to see all conflict-era cases to be resolved through a political understanding and not through the judiciary.

It is rare for the Supreme Court to review a verdict of the special bench, even when the government agrees to file a review petition. This means the Maoists will try to put pressure on the government by obstructing talks on the constitution and through street protests to try to overturn the verdict.

@binitadahal

This article was originally published in Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Legalese/new-Chief-Justice-Kalyan-Shrestha,519)

Interim order and interim constitution

By delving into politics, the Supreme Court verdict on the 16-point deal has once again blurred the separation of powers

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The interim order issued by the single bench of the Supreme Court this week on the 16-point agreementbetween the four biggest political parties to ‘fast-track’ the constitution with a power-sharing compromise has become mired in controversy over the separation of powers.

This is not new, there was a similar debate with the installation of the election government headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi in 2013. The fact that those who approved of that decision are against it this time just shows how opportunistic politics can be.

The two page court decision clearly shows that the Judiciary has entered into the political realm even though it has mentioned that Article 1, 82 and 138 of Interim Constitution are challenged by the recent agreement between the parties.

The political leaders decided that the disputed issue of federalism would be settled by a two-thirds majority in Parliament based on the report of a Federal Commission to demarcate the borders of the provinces.

The Supreme Court, however, issued the interim order to not promulgate constitution without solving the issue of federalism first. But what the honourable justice seems to have forgotten is that this is precisely where everything has been stuck for the past seven years, and the 16-point agreement represents the first hope in untangling the knot. The interim order doesn’t mean that the Constituent Assembly has to stop work on drafting the constitution, and it is clear that the judiciary is over-stepping its bounds by interfering in a sovereign elected assembly.

The major parties which signed the agreement held an emergency meeting on the same day that Supreme Court issued the interim order declaring that they will not stop work in drafting the constitution. Chairman of the CA Subhas Nembang has also been vocally critical of not just the court this week, but also the President Ram Baran Yadav for seeming to side with the court. Actually, the Supreme Court order only alerted CA that according to Article 138, the issue of federalism must be included in the new constitution prior to its dissolution.

The court maintained that according to the provision of Article 138 of Interim Constitution the Constituent Assembly should decide the borders, number, names, structures and headquarters as well as a detailed list of these provinces, their resources and the sharing of rights. Based on this the court said that federalism should be decided by the CA itself and not by a future commission.

It is not normal practice for the Supreme Court to entertain this kind of writ petition, and it was in fact rejected by the Supreme Court administration. This writ was filed by Vijay Kant Karna, former editor and ambassador to Denmark, and the hearing was conducted by Justice Girish Chandra Lal, who is retiring in the first week of January. The recent 16-point agreement had sprung hope among Nepalis that there was finally a breakthrough on the constitution so that the country could focus on post-quake reconstruction. But the court order has dampened those hopes somewhat.

The four parties are putting on a brave face, and have said nothing will stop their agreement from being implemented. Their resolve comes from the fact that the UML, CPN(M) and the MJF(L) will all get berths in a new national unity government after the constitution is written. They are all pinning their hopes that the division bench of the Supreme Court will overturn the single bench verdict on the petition.

Justice Girish Chandra Lal’s decision has also opened him up to allegations of a Madhesi tilt in a decision that favours disgruntled members of the opposition alliance which did not agree with the 16-point deal. Numerous op-eds in the Nepali media have remarked that it is not a coincidence that the writ petitioner, lawyers, and Justice all are Madhesis who have been against the constitution compromise.

@binitadahal

This article was originally published in Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Legalese/supreme-court-verdict-on-16-point-deal-blurs-separation-of-powers,509)

Bar vs Bench

Enough accusations of corruption in the judiciary, time to start investigating them

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The Nepal Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella organisation of lawyers, recently declared at its 13th National Conference in Chitwan that there was rampant corruption in the judiciary. It said the justices themselves were on the take, and asked theChief Justice to take action against them.

Soon after, NBA vice-president Tika Ram Bhattarai and the ex-secretary Raman Kumar Shrestha said in an interview to an online news site that they could provide evidence of such corruption. They also added that it wasn’t just judges who were rotten: lawyers, journalists and power brokers were all involved in bribery.

The public has come to take any allegation of corruption in high places as commonplace. They aren’t surprised that the Supreme Court has also been tarred by the same brush, but this time it was the NBA making the allegation — a body that is supposed to keep the judiciary accountable.

The personal secretariat of Chief Justice Ram Kumar Prasad Shah then fired off a letter to the NBA asking it to provide evidence to back up its accusation against the apex court. This was unprecedented, the Chief Justice or his office had never before written such a letter to anyone. In fact it was highly irregular for the Supreme Court to do so.

Apparently the justices felt alluded to pressure the Chief Justice Shah at a full court meeting to send the letter. One of the Justices told me, on condition of anonymity, that his colleagues argued that if the Chief Justice did not ask for the evidence then it would seem like they were guilty.

As expected, the NBA was not able to provide evidence to the Chief Justice of corruption at the Supreme Court – after all the corrupt don’t leave a paper trail. In their written statement, however, the Bar said it did have evidence but that it would provide that to the Judicial Council or Parliament Hearing Committee.

The NBA’s answer also came across as careless and irresponsible. If it have evidence as it had claimed earlier why did it hesitate to share it with the Chief Justice, who after all, is also the chairman of Judicial Council? The Chief Justice would have been under pressure to take action.

After the NBA’s response, we haven’t heard a peep from the Bar. The Chief Justice should have taken it up at the Judicial Council and asked for further evidence by now. The Parliament Hearing Committee which was active during the appointment of Justices has also not taken the NBA letter with the seriousness it deserved.

Every year, Transparency International’s report show that there is rampant corruption in Judiciary. But no Justices from SC have ever been charged with corruption. The then Justice Prakash Wosti’s five-member committee had also confirmed that there is corruption in the Judiciary. A recent national conference of Justices had also made the same statement.

Enough accusations, the time has now come to investigate them. After all, we are talking about the Supreme Court – and that final provider of justice should not just be making allegations, it should be weeding out the crooks. In fact it is the media that is providing the evidence that the NBA isn’t through with stories like the one by Bhrikuti Rai of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and printed in this paper (#753) about the Chief Justice letting off a fake doctor who embezzled money meant for medical care in Humla on bail.

The Bar and the Bench are in a perpetual state of war, and that is nothing new. In 2008, the president of the NBA, Biswa Kant Mainali made the statement that the post of Justices is a license to corruption. The full court had decided to seize his advocate license for six months. But after lawyers took to the streets, the decision was revoked.

The NBA and the Supreme Court are both there to dispense justice. There are always two parties involved in corruption: the giver and the taker. So we can’t ignore those who are bribing the judges either.

It is already too late to expose corruption in the judiciary, and restore people’s trust in an impartial justice system. Both the Bar and the Bench from their side have to work together to take action against the corrupt in their midst. Otherwise, it will be interpreted that they themselves are afraid that the issue will negatively affect them.

@binitadahal

This article was originally published in today’s Nepali Times (http://nepalitimes.com/regular-columns/Legalese/time-to-investigate-corruption-in-judiciary,473)