9-15 June 2017 #862

CJ exposes PM

Chief Justice Sushila Karki in an interview with Nepal, 4 – 11 June

Nepal: How do you evaluate your term as Chief Justice?

Sushila Karki: I could not complete all the work that I set out to do. There were too many obstacles along the way.

Did you anticipate the extent of political pressure you faced in the Supreme Court?

I never thought the political leaders would go that far. Was it necessary for them to suddenly file an impeachment motion against me when I was in the middle of hearing a case? If they really needed to impeach me, was it not necessary for them to first have a public debate about my mis-doings?

They said you refused to meet their emissary, Maoist leader Barshaman Pun.

Why should I need to meet politicians? It is just not ethical for a judge to meet and consult politicians before hearing a case. Can Pun instruct me to do his bidding? Should I listen to him? If I do, what will society say?

How did you react when you heard about the charges against you?

They accused me of lacking good conduct. How? There is no explanation. They accused me of not allocating cases to some justices. But I never excluded any justices from the case lists.

Could it be possible that some justices were interested in some particular cases, and you did not assign such cases to them?

Cases are assigned to justices depending on their seniority, capacity and expertise. To decide which justices should which cases is within the jurisdiction of a Chief Justice. I just exercised my right. And none of the justices complained about it with me, so I don’t know where the politicians got the idea.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal publicly claimed several times that he had ‘a deal’ with Chief Justice. What really transpired during your meetings with him?

He called me over three times. I did not spend more than five minutes on any occasion. I saw it as a courtesy meeting between the heads of two state organs. But every time I met him, he told the media that he had a deal with me. During a chance meeting at a party organised by the Army, he raised the issue of the case against Balkrishna Dhugel and sought my help. I told him straight to his face that I would not want to see him again. I was cautious about meeting him. This is why I refused to meet him the last time. (Just days before the impeachment motion in Parliament.)

How did the PM want you to deal with the Lokman Singh Karki case?

Now that I am stepping down from the Supreme Court, I must tell people about it. A day after his return from India, the PM called me over. During his stay in New Delhi, I had ordered a review of the Supreme Court verdict on the writ against Karki’s appointment as the CIAA Chief. He told me: “You created problems by ordering a review of this case. Lokman has threatened me. I am in the PM’s seat only for seven more months now. Why don’t you postpone this case and deliver your verdict once I step down?” I told him that the case was already set in motion, and it was not in my hands to stop it.

Did Lokman himself pressure you?

Those who knew me did not have the guts to be Lokman’s mediators. But lots of my own relatives tried to talk me out of this case. Some of them even wept in front of me.

Why do you think political leaders tried to impeach you?

I was not the first justice to face impeachment. Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai had also faced it because he was an honest and competent justice. Why did they try to impeach him? To intimidate him. Our politicians think they are all powerful and everyone should fall in line. Just like the king. They accused me of overstepping my jurisdiction and interfering in the workings of the executive. But that is what the justice system is supposed to do – the Constitution mandates an independent judiciary.

Is the Supreme Court delaying its final verdict on the IGP appointment case because of the impeachment motion you faced?

This is one of the cases in which the Office of Attorney General has an interest. Government attorneys come and tell us that the bench should include this justice or should not include that justice. Justices are generally averse to hearing such controversial cases. This is also delaying the case.

What is your retirement plan?

Instead of being surrounded by corrupt and greedy people, I would rather spend the rest of my life feeding birds, in gardening and talking to flowers.

What if the state gives you a responsibility?

I will not accept any government appointment.

Any plan for social service?

I wish I could serve the society with my own money. I see no point in collecting donations and distributing it. I would rather stay home, and read and write.

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