For a functioning democracy it is important that all three government organs (the executive, the legislative and the judiciary) carry out their respective duties in a free and fair manner. As things stand, the country is without a legislative; even the executive is a caretaker one. In this situation, the role of the judiciary assumes even more importance, as compared to times of normalcy. It is true that in the last few years the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, has come under scrutiny for its rulings on the constitution making process. But when it comes to punishing corrupt government officials, there is little it can be faulted with. Thus the accusation of Nepali Congress that the court acted in an ‘unjust’ manner when it announced a 15-month jail sentence and Rs 9.5 million in fines for NC leader Khum Bahadur Khadka is faulty and an indication of the party’s lack of belief in the judiciary.
NC’s argument is that the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the country’s chief anti-graft body, had filed corruption cases selectively against its leaders during the direct rule of King Gyanendra. Going by this argument, one would have to come to a ludicrous conclusion that the likes of Govinda Raj Joshi, Chiranjeevi Wagle and JP Gupta, all NC leaders at the time and all under CIAA investigation, are innocent victims too. Ludicrous because the corruption cases against Wagle and Gupta are well established, even though both, like Khadka, had initially gotten clean chits from the Special Court.
But in these cases the strength of evidence points more at the dubious intent of former Special Court judges than it does at the failure of the Supreme Court to uphold justice. The other accusation (which was insinuated by some NC leaders who blamed the judiciary of overlooking massive misappropriation of government funds going on for the upkeep of cantoned combatants) that the apex court, the central pillar of the judiciary, might be working under the influence of particular political interests, simply does not behoove a party that likes to portray itself as the custodian of democracy in Nepal.
First, the issue of Maoist misappropriation of state funds and the case of corruption against Khadka are two entirely different legal matters. The apex court’s bias may be evident only if (and when) the PLA case comes under its purview. Second, NC had consistently backed Supreme Court’s verdicts on the likes of Bal Krishna Dhungel and Agni Sapkota, both ex-CA members from UCPN (Maoist). Now for NC to hint that the same court might be influenced by the Maoist government when one of its own has been convicted shows the party’s two-faced nature. Notably, NC didn’t make a squeak when Wagle, Gupta and Joshi were sentenced; but just because Khadka is a more powerful leader with sizable cadre-base, NC leadership has decided to ask SC to review the case.
We believe NC would do itself a world of good if it conducts a proper internal review of Khadka’s case (for the satisfaction of Khadka’s backers) before deciding to knock SC’s door for a judicial review, as the party plans to do. The party has already made a blunder by questioning SC’s verdict without any proof of Khadka’s innocence. It would be a damning evidence of NC’s lack of democratic credentials to retake Khadka’s case, as it stands, before the apex court