The personal decision of Khil Raj Regmi to resign and not return to his post as Chief Justice safeguards the independence of the judiciary and maintains the rule of law in Nepal, the ICJ says.
Caretaker Council of Minister Chairman Khil Raj Regmi announced this afternoon that he would not return to his former post of Chief Justice after acting as the Chairman of the Council of Ministers since March 2013.
“Khil Raj Regmi’s decision is one that will help to preserve the Supreme Court’s hard-earned reputation as an independent institution,” said Ben Schonveld, ICJ’s South Asia Regional Director.
International standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, clarify that all governmental officials and institutions as well as judges must respect and preserve the independence and integrity of the judiciary.
The 2007 Interim Constitution of Nepal enshrines guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and contains safeguards for the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers.
Article 106 of the 2007 Interim Constitution explicitly bans sitting and retired judges from assuming any appointment in government service apart from a role in the national human rights commission.
To enable former Chief Justice Regmi to act as caretaker Prime Minister, the President amended several provisions of the Interim Constitution, including Article 106.
These amendments were made in contravention of the Constitution, which required a two-thirds majority of a sitting Parliament.
“The return of Khil Raj Regmi to the post of Chief Justice would have significantly undermined the appearance of independence of the Supreme Court and the judiciary as a whole,” Schonveld added.
The Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct clarify that judges must not only be free from any inappropriate connections with the executive and legislative branches of government but also must appear to a reasonable observer to be free therefrom.
The ICJ applauds the personal decision of Chairman Khil Raj Regmi to resign as Chief Justice.
The ICJ calls on the new Government under the leadership of the Nepali Congress Chairperson, Sushil Koirala as well as the other elected political parties of the Constituent Assembly to honour the commitments made during the election and work to end impunity for gross violations of human rights.
Ben Schonveld, ICJ South Asia Director, (Kathmandu); t: 977 9804596661; email: ben.schonveld(a)icj.org
Govinda Bandi Sharma, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, Nepal (Kathmandu), t: +977 9851061167; email: govinda.sharma(a)icj.org
Sheila Varadan, ICJ Legal Adviser, South Asia Programme (Bangkok), t: +66 857200723; email: sheila.varadan(a)icj.org