The Judicial Council on Thursday midnight appointed 80 judges for seven high courts and their extended benches but the decision drew controversy as one of the council members boycotted the meeting and another was absent.
Although senior Justice Baidyanath Upadhyaya remained absent in the meeting and council member Ram Prasad Sitaula, the representative of Nepal Bar Association, boycotted the meeting, Chief Justice Sushila Karki, Minister for Law and Justice Ajaya Shankar Nayak and Judicial Council member Padam Baidik, who was appointed by the prime minister, decided to appoint 37 judges at district courts, 27 advocates and 16 joint secretaries and special class officials of legal, judicial and government attorney services as the judges of high courts.
“As the representative of Nepal Bar Association, it was my task to recommend advocates for the appointment but the chief justice not only rejected the proposal from my side but interfered and dictated who should be recommended. Following it, I boycotted the meeting,” said Sitaula.
Nepal Bar Association (NBA) has also expressed serious dissatisfaction over the recommendations and asked the council to review the decision immediately. Issuing a press release on Friday, NBA General Secretary Khamma Bahadur Khati argued that the recommendations made in the absence of two council members have not fulfilled the constitutional provisions and the provisions of Judicial Council Act.
Meanwhile, Madhes-based parties have expressed dissatisfaction over the recommendation made by the council arguing that the decision ignored the principle of proportionate representation and inclusion.
“Though it was a decision by Judicial Council, we have expressed serious dissatisfaction over the recommendation with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Friday as the council’s decision is non-inclusive,” said Sadbhavana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato.
“We asked PM why minister for law and justice agreed to the non-inclusive recommendations,” he added.
Likewise, the recommendation of kin and cadres of political leaders and justices as the judges of high courts have also drawn criticism across the mainstream media as well as social media.
Among the recommended names, Sudarshan Dev Bhatta is a cousin of Minister Ramesh Lekhak while Subhas Paudel is the son of sitting Justice Jagadish Sharma Paudel.
Likewise, Munindra Awasthi was once the personal secretary of Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba while Madan Pokharel was a law-firm partner of council member Padam Baidik in Dang. Dhrubaraj Nanda is a brother-in-law of Judicial Council’s Secretary Krishna Giri, who also got recommended as high court judge. Likewise, Ramesh Kumar Nidhi is nephew of Home Minister Bimalendra Nidhi and Deependra Bahadur Bam is the son of late justice Rana Bahadur Bam, who was killed by political goon Megh Bahadur Thapa aka Babu Thapa in 2012.
“To avoid all these kinds of controversy, I had consulted NBA prior to the meeting and discussed about the possible recommendations in the meeting but the chief justice and other members in the council didn’t listen to me,” said Sitauala.
Likewise, advocates Ganesh Prasad Baral, Sitaram Mandal, Janak Pandey, Bamdev Gyawali, Shyamjee Pradhan, Gokarna Dangi, Basudev Acharya, Khushi Prasad Tharu, Madan Pokharel, Shanta Sedhai Sapkota, Durga Bahadur Biswakarma, Tanka Prasad Gurung, Hari Prasad Paudel, Tej Naryan Singh Rai, Babita Upreti, Ram Bahadur Thapa, Shakuntala Ghimire, Nasarullah Ansari and Rajya Laxmi Bajracharya were also recommended as judges for the high courts.
The council also recommended former additional judges at appellate courts Ramesh Pokharel, Agni Prasad Thapaliya, Rishiram Dawadi, Nityananda Pandey, Rajeshwar Tiwari, Dinesh Prasad Yadav, Krishna Lal Bhattarai, Nar Bahadur Shahi, Shanti Singh Thapa and Yamuna Bhattarai as high court judges.
The recommendations also drew controversy in regards to the political affiliation of the advocates recommended to the post of judges. According to a source at the council, 10 recommended individuals are close to ruling CPN (Maoist Center) while 16 others are close to Nepali Congress. Likewise, five among the recommended names are close to the main opposition CPN-UML.
The council also recommended Joint Attorney General Rajendra Subedi, secretary at the council Giri, Supreme Court Registrar Shree Kanta Paudel, secretary at the Commission for Investigation of Enforced Disappeared Persons Mahesh Sharma Paudel, secretary at the Ministry of Law and Justice Tek Prasad Dhungana as judges of high courts.
Likewise, district court judges Balendra Rupakheti, Ajayaraj Upadhyaya, Binod Mohan Acharya, Bholanath Chaulagain, Achyut Bista, Yagyaraj Bhatta, Shekhar Prasad Paudel, Bal Chandra Sharma, Ishwarraj Acharya, Ram Prasad Adhikari, Gopal Bhattarai, Ram Prasad Oli and Jagat Prasad Shrestha are also recommended as high court judges.
Other district court judges recommended to the high courts are Narayan Prasad Shrestha, Narayan Prasad Pokharel, Bhojraj Adhikari, Ramesh Kumar Khatri, Dayanath Kharel, Sekhar Chandra Aryal, Shaligram Koirala, Bishnu Prasad Koirala, Laxmi Krishna Shrestha, Krishna Kamal Adhikari, Chintamani Baral, Anantaraj Dumre, Rajendra Kharel, Thakur Prasad Sharma Paudel, Hari Pratap KC, Krishna Bahadur Thapa, Achyut Prasad Bhandari, Rishi Prasad Adhikari, Balabhadra Bastola, Tek Narayan Kunwar and Chandra Bahadur Saru.
Likewise, Dhir Bahadur Chand at Labor Court, Lekhnath Paudel (registrar at Surkhet High Court), Bipul Neupane (joint registrar at Supreme Court), Natibabu Lamichhane (registrar at Tulasipur High Court), Rabi Sharma Aryal (joint secretary at Nepal Law Commission) and Sadhuram Sapkota (joint secretary at the Ministry of Law and Justice) were also recommended as high court judges.