Monday, December 19, 2005

RCCC can't move against judges: JC

Kathmandu, Dec 19 - The Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC) cannot take action against judges on charge of corruption as the constitution has not given it such authority, says the report of a high-level committee of the Judicial Council (JC).

In the report made public on Sunday by Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Poudel, the committee has termed "unconstitutional" the RCCC's action against Pyuthan District Court Judge Birendra Kumar Karna in March, adding "...the laws cannot recognize such illegal actions [of the RCCC]."
"The only body authorized [by the constitution] to take action against judges facing corruption charges is the JC, and no authority or body can take action against judges in contravention of this clear constitutional provision," the report says.

The JC is the apex body of the judiciary, it is authorized to take action against judges, and the Chief Justice heads it while two other seniormost justices of the Supreme Court and the law minister are members. Karna's controversial arrest was viewed by the legal fraternity at the time as an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

The JC, however, was silent over the case. This is the first time it has commented formally on the jurisdiction of the RCCC. The Council had adopted the report on August 25 and even sent its decision to King Gyanendra. The report was not made public until sunday. It came out in the bulletin of the JC released on the occasion of Judicial Council Day .

The RCCC, formed on February 17 by the king after he seized power, had arrested judge Karna on March 23 while allegedly taking a bribe from a lawyer. The controversial RCCC defended its action, saying that it arrested the judge as per its jurisdiction as defined by the king. The RCCC submitted a report on the case to the king, but the Principal Secretariat of the Royal Palace referred the case to the JC amidst protests from the legal fraternity.

The JC had formed a single-member committee led by Senior Justice of the Supreme Court Min Bahadur Rayamajhi to probe the case. Dr Tulsi Giri represented the government before the Council as law minister at that time. The Rayamajhi committee found the judge guilty. He was suspended as per the report and a corruption case filed against him at the Appellate Court Tulsipur in Dang.

The Supreme Court has completed hearings on the constitutionality of the RCCC and its verdict is expected on Jan 5.

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