Meeting of 10 SC justices on controversy of constitutional bench ends inconclusively

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The meeting of senior Supreme Court (SC) justices held after Justices Tej Bahadur KC and Bam Kumar Shrestha refused to recuse themselves from the constitutional bench hearing the petitions related to the House dissolution has ended inconclusively.

The meeting of 10 senior justices in the roster of 13 for constitutional bench discussed the principles about recusal of judges, questions raised about the two justices during the hearing and other issues, according to a justice who attended the meeting.

The 13-strong roster for constitutional bench includes Chief Justice (CJ) Cholendra Shumsher Rana, and Justices Deepak Kumar Karki, Meera Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki, Bishwambhar Shrestha, Ishwore Prasad Khatiwada, Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, Anil Sinha, Prakash Singh Raut, Sapana Pradhan Malla, Tej Bahadur KC, Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tanka Bahadur Moktan.

All the justices in the roster apart from CJ Rana, KC and Shrestha attended the Monday meeting.

“Today’s meeting discussed the issue. They (Deepak Karki and Bhattarai) will have to take the decision. Decision on this may be taken tomorrow,” the justice added.

CJ Rana held a meeting of the five-strong constitutional bench on Sunday after questions were raised about Shrestha and KC during the hearing. Justices Deepak Kumar Karki and Ananda Mohan Bhattarai suggested during the meeting that it would be better for the two justices to recuse themselves but CJ Rana said that KC and Shrestha should take the decision themselves.

Karki and Bhattarai then demanded the matter be discussed by all 13 justices in the roster for constitutional bench but CJ Rana refused to comply.

KC and Shrestha wrote to the remaining three justices in the bench on Monday that they have no reservations about hearing the case despite the questions raised about them

The 10 justices out of the roster of 13 met after refusal of KC and Shrestha for recusal.

Lawyers pleading on behalf of the petitioners have been protesting against presence of Justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tej Bahadur KC in the constitutional bench hearing the petitions related to the House dissolution.

Shrestha was part of the joint bench also including Kumar Regmi that invalidated the unification of CPN on March 7 reinstating CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) to the state before their unification.

Similarly, KC is the only justice out of the four in the five-strong constitutional bench, that reinstated the House after it was dissolved on December 20, 2020, to have been repeated in the bench by CJ Rana.

There were heated and sarcastic exchanges between the lawyers and CJ Rana while arguing about the issue during the hearing on Sunday.

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