KATHMANDU (NYTIMES) – The chief justice of Nepal’s Supreme Court was suspended Sunday (Feb 13) after lawmakers voted to impeach him on accusations that he removed the former prime minister and reinstated Parliament in exchange for political jobs for relatives.
The moves against Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana aggravate a protracted political dispute that involves pitting the United States and China against each other to bankroll infrastructure.
The suspension also threatens to exacerbate a stalemate in Parliament that has made governing Nepal all but impossible in recent months.
The government has struggled to function for more than a year, with the previous prime minister, K.P. Sharma Oli, twice dissolving Parliament, citing a dispute over his coalition’s power-sharing agreement.
The Supreme Court stripped Mr Oli of his duties and reinstated Parliament last July, ruling that dissolving it before the end of its five-year term was unconstitutional.
Shortly after that, the chief justice faced a barrage of accusations from Nepal’s legal community, including colleagues on the Supreme Court.
The Nepal Bar Association said Justice Rana had reinstated Parliament in a quid pro quo with politicians who promised to award his relatives plum ministerial posts.
He was also accused of influencing cases assigned to other judges, although he denied the allegations against him.
Last October, Justice Rana’s brother-in-law, Mr Gajendra Bahadur Hamal, was appointed to lead the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, but was forced to step down only three days later after protests by lawyers engulfed Kathmandu, the capital.
The lawyers also demanded Mr Rana’s impeachment.
Other Supreme Court justices boycotted the bench for weeks, upending most cases, with plaintiffs who travelled to Kathmandu from far-flung villages forced to return home without hearings.
Critics said justice was not being served because of the discord over Justice Rana’s presence.