Chief Justice (CJ) Gopal Parajuli has a track record that made former CJs Kalyan Shrestha and Sushila Karki suspicious and led them to stop handing cases related to medical education sector to him.
The Supreme Court (SC) issued an order to arrest Dr Govinda KC just two hours after he started fast-unto-death demanding resignation of CJ Parajuli on Monday.
A single bench of Dambar Bahadur Shahi heard a contempt of court case against Dr KC that was presented to the bench by the SC itself after processing a memo (tippani) prepared by a SC section officer on Monday based on the press statement issued by Dr KC before starting his hunger strike and its coverage in the online media.
The bench was set by CJ Parajuli, advocates including former attorney general Raman Shrestha were invited to plead on the case and the order to arrest Dr KC was given within two hours of Dr KC starting the fast.
Dr KC has been raising questions about the orders given by Parajuli from the time he was with the Patan Appellate Court. The latest hunger strike was also started after the SC’s order to reinstate Prof Dr Shashi Sharma as dean of Institute of Medicine under the Tribhuvan University (TU) for four days.
The joint bench of CJ Parajuli and Justice Deepak Kumar Karki, after conducting the final hearing of the writ petition filed by Dr Sharma four years ago demanding his reinstatement, on Sunday had ordered his reinstatement for four days if he so wishes.
It would be worthwhile to look at the orders given by Parajuli in cases related to the medical education sector during his career as a judge to provide context for why the SC under Parajuli has hastily initiated the contempt of court case against Dr KC and had him arrested.
Janaki Medical College
A bench of Parajuli, who was then the chief judge at the Patan Appellate Court, in January, 2014 had issued an interim order instructing the Nepal Medical Council (NMC) to not implement its decision to cut the number of MBBS seats of the Janaki Medical College to zero paving the way for the medical college to take in students as per the prior allocation of seats.
The NMC again cut the college’s seats to zero in October 2014. But a bench of Salauddin Siddique again issued an interim order to not implement the NMC’s decision on the basis of Parajuli’s earlier interim order. The medical college had stopped to even conduct classes then and was shut down within six months of that second interim order.
People’s Dental College
A bench of Parajuli, who was chief judge at the Patan Appellate Court, in 2014 had issued an interim order on the first hearing instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of BDS seats to 60 from 75 stating that it will affect the already admitted 65 students.
Another bench of Shahi, who ordered arrest of Dr KC on Monday, and Bimal Dhungel later gave continuity to Parajuli’s interim order.
Nobel Medical College
A bench of Parajuli, who had recently become SC justice, in June 2014 had issued an interim order on the first hearing instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of post-graduate seats to six from 50.
People’s Medical College
The bench of Parajuli on the same day he issued an interim order on Nobel’s petition had issued an interim order on the first hearing instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of post-graduate seats to zero from six.
Universal Medical College
A joint bench of Parajuli and Om Prakash Mishra in November 2014 had issued an interim order instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of post-graduate seats to 12 from 45 and MBBS seats to 135 from 150.
Parajuli used to set up bench for the cases even when he was chief judge at the Patan Appellate Court and many cases were given to Dambar Bahadur Shahi whose single bench on Monday issued the order to arrest Dr KC.
Cases about medical education seen by Shahi
Shahi has also had his share of cases related to the medical education sector.
National Medical College
A single bench of Shahi, when he was judge at the Patan Appellate Court, in May 2014 had issued an interim order on the first hearing instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of post-graduate seats to zero.
Mahabir Prasad Brij Lal Kedia Dental College
A single bench of Shahi, when he was judge at the Patan Appellate Court, in June 2014 had issued an interim order on the first hearing instructing the NMC to not implement its decision to cut the number of BDS seats to 35 from 60 stating that the dental college had already took in students and started classes.
CJ Kalyan Shrestha orders probe
The then CJ Kalyan Shrestha in August 2015 had formed a probe committee to investigate news reports that questioned the orders given in court cases related to medical education sector. The committee included the then Judicial Council members Ram Sitaula and Ram Prasad Shrestha. The term of Sitaula and Shrestha at the Judicial Council was not extended and the probe never took off.
But suspicious CJ Shrestha stopped allocating cases related to medical education to Parajuli at SC. Shrestha’s successor Sushila Karki also never allocated cases related to medical education to Parajuli.
Cases related to medical education have again invited controversy once Parajuli became CJ. He allocated the first case related to the medical education sector after he assumed leadership of the Apex Court to Justice Purushottam Bhandari.
Bhandari’s bench hearing the petition filed by the students, who were not in the merit list prepared after entrance examinations but were admitted by Universal Medical College, issued an order to not revoke admission of the students stating the classes had already started.
The students, who had made it to the merit list, then filed another case. CJ Parajuli kept the case in his bench and then ordered the medical college to admit the students who had made it to the merit list.
Universal urged the TU to add the number of seats citing these two SC orders. The Parajuli-led SC, in this way, was dragged into controversy.
Shahi got promoted to the SC after Parajuli became CJ. The SC through Shahi’s bench then gave the order to revoke TU’s decision to deny affiliation to Kathmandu National Medical College of Ghattekulo, Kathmandu that did not meet any standard.
CJ Parajuli gave the verdict to reinstate Dr Sharma as IOM dean for four days through his own bench on Sunday. CJ Parajuli could have keep the four-year-old case on hold and not scheduled the case as has happened in hundreds of other cases in SC. He could also have chosen to refuse to issue an order in favor of Dr Sharma like the SC had done earlier in refusing an interim order four years ago. But he did not do that and ordered that Dr Sharma, whose term was to expire after four days, be reinstated for four days.
This was not a case where someone had been been dealt a grave injustice, and was given symbolic justice even in the eleventh hour. This was an issue related to overall reform of medical education. This verdict was given to deal a body blow to the sector that was gradually reforming following the relentless struggle of Dr KC.
That was why Dr KC was so angry after the verdict and started a hunger strike demanding resignation of CJ Parajuli. CJ Parajuli then set up the bench of Shahi, with whom he has worked since the Patan Appellate Court days, to look in the contempt of court report prepared by the SC against Dr KC on its own. Shahi then issued the order to arrest Dr KC.