Beyond Juristocracy: The Chief Justice of Nepal

The last two decades have seen Supreme Court in South Asia playing an extremely prominent role in everyday governance. The Chief Justices of Pakistan and Sri Lanka have emerged as figureheads of the opposition to the government. However, the action so far has largely been from the benches.

Recent developments in Nepal push us to reconsider the pattern. This week faced with a constitutional deadlock, the four major Nepali political parties invited Chief Justice Khim Raj Regmi to take over the government as interim Prime Minister and to conduct the next set of elections. Chief Justice Regmi after consideration has accepted the offer. There are some precedents for this in South Asia. In Bangladesh, Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed had held the office of the Prime Minister for three months as he oversaw the transition from the dictatorship of Huseein Mohammad Ershad. The new Bhutanese constitution also provides for the possibility of the Chief Justice taking over as interim premier. However, the constitution of Nepal expressly provides that judges of the Supreme Court cannot hold political office.

While political parties and the press have largely been supportive of the Chief Justice, the Nepal Bar Association has been outraged and protested that this compromises the independence of the judiciary.Several writ petitions have challenging this appointment arguing that it vitiates against the separation of powers. Semanta Dahal, a constitutional lawyer in Nepal presents the case for the opposition here.

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