Rana challenges the legality of the impeachment process

Suspended Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana continued to blame others on Thursday as well while he appeared before the Impeachment Recommendation Committee for a second day.

Rana first questioned the very formation of the Impeachment Recommendation Committee arguing that those, who signed the motion against him, were on the committee.

Nepali Congress lawmakers Min Bishwakarma and Ram Bahadur Bista, CPN (Maoist Centre) lawmakers Rekha Sharma and Yasoda Subedi Gurung, and Kalyani Khadka from the CPN (Unified Socialist), who had signed the motion, are members of the recommendation committee.

Rana argued that it was against the principle of natural justice for the same persons who filed the complaint also to investigate it.

“Those who filed the impeachment motion against me cannot be on the recommendation committee,” Sharma quoted Rana as saying. “It is against the principle of natural justice.”

The ruling party lawmakers objected to his remarks saying no law prevents the signatories of the impeachment motion from being on the recommendation committee. They also said by Rana’s logic, lawmakers from the ruling parties cannot be part of the recommendation committee. Most of the lawmakers from the Congress, the Maoist Centre and the Unified Socialist on February 13 had registered the impeachment motion against Rana. Among 132 lawmakers from the three parties, 98 signed in the impeachment motion.

The Parliament had formed the 11-member impeachment recommendation committee on March 6.

“Like yesterday (Wednesday), Rana didn’t directly respond to our questions today (Thursday) as well,” Bishwakarma told the Post. “He failed to defend the allegations against him.”

The committee could ask just two from the list of the 43 questions on Thursday in the question-answer session that lasted two hours. It had managed to ask just four questions on Wednesday, along with some supplementary questions.

According to the members of the committee, Rana rubbished the questions about his alleged incompetence in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities.

Rana, according to the members of the committee, said the allegations in the motion are nothing but the 21 points made public by the Nepal Bar Association when it sought his resignation.

“The lawmakers signed in the same 21 points and presented them as charges against me,” Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe, a member of the committee from the CPN-UML, quoted Rana as saying. “I am suspended for the last six and a half months because of the motion which has meaningless and baseless allegations that cannot be established.”

In their impeachment motion, the 98 lawmakers have levelled 21 allegations against Rana, claiming he promoted corruption in the judiciary, gave access to middlemen for bench shopping, which is a term used for the unscrupulous practice of selecting benches through middlemen to ensure a favourable order, bargained with executives and failed to discharge his constitutional responsibilities effectively among others.

According to the committee members, Rana went off most of the time and ranted about other issues.

Responding to the question that he failed to prioritise the cases related to the interpretation of constitution, he said the Supreme Court, under his leadership, passed verdicts in several cases related to taxes and ensured billions of rupees to state coffers.

He claimed that the court had resolved cases related to the interpretation of the constitution.

“Rana reiterated that the motion had lost its legality as it was not presented in the lower house as prescribed by the regulations of the House of Representatives,” said Tumbahangphe.

Clause 161(2) of the regulations of the House of Representatives says the Speaker has to finalise the date and time for the presentation of the motion in the House seven days after the motion is registered.

When the House is not in session, those registering the motion must demand its commencement within 15 days for discussion. However, it took five months for the motion to be presented before the House. Citing the same provision, Rana has been claiming the motion is not valid.

The committee has decided to summon Rana on Sunday as well as it still has 37 questions from the list for Rana.

The clarification process is taking more time than expected by the committee. Besides set questions, committee members also ask supplementary questions and Rana tends to go on and on without being checked by anyone.

“It is a time-consuming process which we couldn’t foresee,” Laxmi Prasad Gautam, secretary of the committee, told the Post. “We will have to revise our schedule.”

The committee earlier had decided to prepare its report by Saturday and present it in the House next week. However, the committee members say it will take at least one more week for them to prepare the report.

“We will hold a meeting to revise our schedule after a proper anticipation about the time the question-answer session could take,” said Sharma.

Once the committee presents its report explaining whether or not there are reasons to impeach Rana, it will be put to vote in the House of Representatives.

The House can re-assign the committee for further investigation.

The impeachment motion cannot pass unless the main opposition CPN-UML votes in favour, as it has to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority. 

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