Supreme Court justices, members of the Judicial Commission, and the Minister of Law and Justice, after a two-day retreat in Dhulikhel over the weekend, have concluded that they need to address weaknesses within the judiciary to restore the public’s trust.
Taking part were Chief Justice Damodar Sharma who is also the Chair of the Judicial Commission, Law Minister Narhari Acharya and 11 justices of the Supreme Court. The self-reflection was organised in response to public exposure through the media of the behaviour and past record of some of the justices. A Supreme Court source said participants all agreed that judges needed to correct their own mistakes and themselves adhere to principles of judicial ethics.
In a paper presented at the conclave, Upendra Keshari Neupane of the Judicial Commission said the justice system needed to be more transparent, accountable, accessible and affordable, and non-discriminatory. He said the incidence of contempts of court were increasing because of the erosion of public faith in the judicial system. But he defended the bill on the contempt of court, saying it was an internationally accepted method to address the respect and trust in the justice system.
At the meeting, Justice Gopal Parajuli and others justices blamed “organised trial by media” for the difficulties in the administration of justice. The press was giving “views” rather than “news” in a coordinated attack on the Supreme Court, a source quoted one judge as telling the meeting. However, Neupane said that if judges reformed their behaviour, displayed integrity, and used their conscience, they would not have to resort to contempt of court directives.
“The press is deliberately interfering with the justice system, journalists are pronouncing verdicts, this is making it difficult for justice to be administered, such direct and blatant intervention needs to be stopped,”
Parajuli was quoted as saying. However, another working paper blamed contradictory interim rulings on similar cases for the confusion and drift in the judicial system.
Minister Acharya said a concrete recommendation was needed on how stakeholders, including the media, could help restore the public’s trust in the judiciary.