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Nepal lawmakers consider impeaching chief justice

[JURIST] Nepal's parliamentarians have said they may impeach Nepal's Chief Justice Dilip Kumar Poudel, accusing him of failing to maintaining independence of the judiciary during the 15-month long autocratic rule of King Gyanendra [official profile; BBC profile], who gave up control of the government after pro-democracy protests [JURIST news archive] last month. The "Chief Justice should either resign or face impeachment," leftist MP Ishwar Pokharel said in the parliament. Speaking in a similar vein, other parliamentarians also demanded an immediate resignation of the chief justice and two other judges who are considered close to Nepal's 58-year-old monarch, warning the judges of impeachment if they ignore their call to resign.

Poudel has been the subject of controversy for his role in deciding a number of constitutional cases relating to people's fundamental rights during the King's direct rule from February 2005 to April 2006 and Nepal's lawmakers have alleged that Poudel "fail[ed] to protect people's fundamental rights during the king's autocratic rule." For instance, the parliamentarians said the chief justice deferred hearings on the controversial Royal Commission for Corruption Control [JURIST report], an anti-graft body formed by King Gyanendra to contain his opponents, as many as 13 times. Similarly, the chief justice, in a controversial order last November, upheld a law [JURIST report] banning Nepal's independent radios from broadcasting news programming

Appointed by the King through a decree, the chief justice was criticized by Nepal Bar Association [group website] early this year for appointing royalist judges to Nepal's courts. The relationship between the chief justice and lawyers has become cold since then. Nepal's lawyers have called for his resignation, but the chief justice has so far rejected their demands.

Kiran Chapagain is a special correspondent for JURIST writing from Nepal. He is an Assistant Senior Reporter for the Kathmandu Post.

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