Oops! Deuba does it again

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A cursory look at some of the charges leveled against Chief Justice (CJ) Sushila Karki in the impeachment motion registered on instruction of Nepali Congress (NC) President Sher Bahadur Deuba and one gets a feeling that Deuba may well have listed his own characteristics.

Interfering in the executive's decision-making in IGP appointment, lack of competence and promotion of factionalism are the major charges leveled against CJ Karki.

But it was Deuba who interfered in IGP appointment by forcing Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to appoint fourth-ranked DIG Jai Bahadur Chand as IGP of Nepal Police despite vehement opposition of Bimalendra Nidhi who headed the line ministry while leading NC in the Dahal cabinet.

Much ink has already been spilled in analysis of legendary competence of Deuba who was twice sacked by the then king Gyanendra for incompetence despite handing over the strings of Singha Durbar to Narayanhiti Palace.

And Oxford dictionary would already have included Deubaism as a synonym for factionalism in his honor by now if Nepal were even half as important geopolitically as her neighbors China and India are.

The haste with which the impeachment motion has been brought leaves no doubt whatsoever about the bad intentions behind it. It has been brought just two days before the Supreme Court (SC) was to hear the petition filed by DIG Nava Raj Silwal against appointment of Prakash Aryal as IGP.

DIG Silwal has attached performance evaluation documents with his petition and the government has already initiated investigations against him for forgery of the documents which the Apex Court understandably has blocked now as the case is sub judice there.

The timing of the impeachment motion gives credence to the claims of Silwal that the government forged performance evaluation to rank Aryal higher before appointing the latter as IGP. There was no need for a pre-emptive strike against CJ Karki if that were not the case. If Silwal had indeed forged the documents, the police's forensic lab has already said so, and CJ Karki had ruled in his favor despite that, the government could have registered the motion on the day of the verdict itself.

CJ Karki was set to retire on June 7 and the motion would have served the purpose even then, like it has now, even if it were not eventually passed. The government by getting the documents produced by Silwal tested independently and confirmed as being forged could have put tremendous pressure even on CPN-UML to vote in favor of the impeachment motion then.

Appointment of IGP, without any doubt, is an executive prerogative. But the blatantly shameless manner in which Chand was appointed and how the tussle between Deuba and Nidhi was played in the public deserved an intervention from the judiciary. And we all have to remember that the full bench headed by CJ Karki didn't direct the government to appoint Silwal. It just cancelled Chand's appointment and directed the government to appoint IGP on the basis of performance evaluation of the past four years. The government by arbitrarily pushing with Chand's appointment forced the hands of Supreme Court to lay the rule for IGP appointment, which by the way is in accordance with the Police Regulations.

The government had every right to appoint Aryal in the first place even if he were behind Silwal in performance evaluation, and any attempt by the SC to block that would have qualified as an infringement of the executive's authority. Blocking of the appointment of fourth-ranked Chand is not.

Deuba should remember that the country is not his private company and he is just president of the party that happens to be the largest party in the parliament, well short of a clear majority though, until the next election. The provision of checks and balance have been kept in the constitution precisely to stop the kind of excesses Deuba tried through PM Dahal in appointment of Chand.

CJ Karki exercised that to block Chand's appointment and nobody would grudge Deuba exercising the weapon of impeachment against Karki if she had ordered appointment of Silwal even if he were behind Aryal in performance evaluation.

But Deuba and Dahal have made a mockery of the constitutional provision of impeachment as a weapon of last resort with its preemptive registration as a tactical move to stop CJ Karki from delivering justice. This will set a bad precedent and there will be more such tactical use of impeachment in the future considering how justices at the SC are being appointed in political quotas in recent times. This will encourage other parties to register impeachment motion against the chief justice just before a verdict on an important case if the second-ranked justice, in line to be successor, happens to be close to the parties concerned.

Given unquestionable integrity and honesty of Karki, and lack of that in Deuba and his coterie, the impeachment motion may well consign NC—that has been surviving solely due to its proud history—to history. NC leaders and cadres must question their all-powerful supremo why the party, that did not support the impeachment motion against the then CIAA chief commissioner Lokman Singh Karki, has now hastily registered one against CJ Karki, and put pressure on him to correct the blunder even if that may well be too little too late to save the party's fortunes.

There have already been rumors that the signatures used in registration of the impeachment motion are forged or those collected previously for other purpose have been used in registering the motion. The lawmakers should come out in public and protest against use of their signatures without their consent if they don't want to self-immolate to mourn what surely has to be the end of Deuba's ignominious political career.

But Deuba needs to be reined in more importantly for the greater good of the country.  He is the parliamentary party leader of the largest party in the country and looks set to become the next prime minister. The NC lawmakers must immediately replace him at the helm of the parliamentary party. The stack of his wrongdoings is already taller than Dharahara once was, and he should be stopped from doing to the country what the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 did to Dharahara.

An impulsive person, who delivered the keys of democracy to the palace to spite his mentor turned bête noire Girija Prasad Koirala in past and now has registered the impeachment motion against CJ Karki apparently to show her who the boss is, cannot again be trusted behind the wheel of the country. Definitely not when the country is at the crossroads as it is now.