With just 15 days to go for local level polls in Nepal, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi resigned on Sunday, apparently dissatisfied with a move to impeach Chief Justice Sushila Karki without his knowledge.
The country’s two ruling parties, Nepali Congress and CPN(Maoist Center), registered an impeachment motion against Karki earlier in the day, in the first such move in Nepal's history.
Karki, the first woman chief justice of Nepal who is retiring after one month, was automatically suspended from the post after the registration of impeachment motion.
A recent dispute between government and Supreme Court over the appointment of Nepal police chief is considered the tipping point, with allegations that Karki tampered with the performance evaluation of candidates for the post.
Nidhi, who leads the Nepali Congress in the cabinet, said he had serious reservations about the move to impeach Karki. “I was not aware about the impeachment motion registered in the Parliament...the impeachment motion is related to IGP (inspector general of police) appointment and I am not consulted,” he said.
The appointment of the police chief falls under home ministry led by Nidhi, who was dissatisfied due to protocol-related issues with his party’s boss Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda.’
A total of 249 lawmakers from ruling parties who favoured the impeachment motion accused Karki of interfering in the jurisdiction of executive and failing to issue verdicts without being prejudiced. According to Nepal’s constitution, an amendment motion can be filed at the parliament by securing the support of at least one-fourth of the total number of lawmakers.
The resignation of Nidhi has put in limbo the fate of local elections, planned to be held in two phases on May 14 and June 14. For his part, Nidhi said he was committed to the constitution amendment proposal to address the grievances of the Madhes-based parties and to the polls, assuring support for the elections.
Attorney General Raman Shrestha said it was necessary to impeach the chief justice as she tampered with the work performance evaluation of the police chief candidates during the recent controversy over the promotion of Nepal police chief.
She has been accused of breaching the sanctity of the court and principle of separation of powers, propping up groups and nepotism in the court, failing to execute fair justice and putting unnecessary pressure in the court and fellow colleagues.
As soon as Pracahanda-led government appointed Jay Bahadur Chand as new police chief, his competitor, Nawaraj Silwal had knocked the door of Supreme Court claiming seniority over Chand. Later the court ruled the government to appoint Siwal as per the merit and seniority. After the dispute, the government appointed a third person, Prakash Aryal, as new inspector general of Nepal police.
Siwal again moved court last week and the impeachment move came a day ahead of the final verdict on the case. Fearing that the court may rule in favour of Silwal, the two ruling parties decided to register impeachment motion, which means Karki would no longer serve in the bench.