Sushila Karki, the first woman Chief Justice of Supreme Court of Nepal is celebrated for her zero tolerance against corruption in the judiciary. She completed BA degree from Mahendra Morang Campus, Biratnagar and went to Banaras Hindu University to earn her master’s degree in Political Science. The 25th Chief Justice of Nepal’s judiciary, Sushila Karki took the oath as Chief Justice in July 11, 2016 and retired recently on June 7, 2017. Colleges Nepal team talked with her about her journey to becoming the first woman Chief Justice of Nepal.
YOU’VE RECENTLY RETIRED. WHAT’S KEEPING YOU BUSY THESE DAYS?
I shifted my home recently so, there’s a lot of work for me. I have to manage the expenses of the home. I’m a religious person so my morning is spent on worship and meditation then I read newspaper. I don’t think I have to sit idle after retirement.
WAS IT YOUR DREAM TO BECOME THE CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE COUNTRY?
Actually no, I never thought of becoming a Chief Justice. When I was in college I used to work for human rights. At that time, I wasn’t active in politics but subsequently, I became president in zonal court and so on and that’s how I came into judiciary.
HOW WAS YOUR CHILDHOOD?
I’m a daughter of a farmer. In 2007, we came to Kathmandu. My father got involved in politics. He was a politician in Nepali Congress. My family was in favor of girl’s education so they educated all the children both son and daughter.
HOW WAS YOUR 32 YEARS OF PROFESSIONAL LIFE IN THE JUDICIARY?
There were lots of ups and downs. It wasn’t easy and especially for women it’s more difficult. Not much women were active in this field. This profession wasn’t considered as an ideal profession for women but I didn’t listen to other people and continued doing what I felt is right for me. In 2060 B.S., I successfully achieved the post of senior attorney; the opportunity which wasn’t gained by many women in this field. My well-wishers always motivated me to become chief justice but I was happy as an attorney because I could take out some time for my family as well.
HOW WAS YOUR JOURNEY AS THE FIRST WOMAN CHIEF JUSTICE?
Former Chief Justice helped me a lot. He used to say that I should prepare earlier for the role of Chief Justice in future. He used to guide us and he believed that one day I will become the Chief Justice. I used to think a woman cannot perform well in this role because no women had previously worked in this post. I always saw men doing it but it’s nothing like that. What I realized is, it takes a good heart, motivation, and support to succeed.
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO BE THE FIRST WOMAN CHIEF JUSTICE OF NEPAL?
It’s very difficult to work in Nepal. No matter how much we say there is no discrimination, it still exists. I got the opportunity to be the first woman chief justice of Nepal. I had to stay strong and work with integrity for those women who looked up to me. I had to motivate them to be capable and not afraid of entering men dominating field. There are obviously tons of hurdles but running from it is not an option. If I had not done my job right, the whole women gender would have been accused of inability. Our capability would have been questioned, so I had to prove that women can also administer higher posts in the judiciary.
HOW SUPPORTIVE WERE YOUR PARENTS?
My father wanted me to become a doctor but I was really bad at maths (laughs) so I studied Arts. Once my father saw a photo of a chief justice of some country in a newspaper and showed it to me. He said that if you couldn't become a doctor, but still you can become a Chief Justice. It was my parents who believed in me. They let me study as much as I wanted. They didn’t force me into marriage ever. Without parents support, it was impossible to achieve success.
OUT OF ALL THE CASES YOU UNDERTOOK DURING YOUR TENURE AS CHIEF JUSTICE, WHICH ONE DO YOU REMEMBER THE MOST?
I was once charged for being extremely feminist. I have spoken on many issues regarding women; issues like rape, compensation, woman’s right, murder etc. I had to face many criticism, charge, blame just because I concentrated mostly on corruption.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IN THIS FIELD?
Women have to face more challenges in the field compared to men. Because of this, not many women dared to enter this field. People think there’s no scope of women in this field but my family supported me a lot. I would like to credit my success to my family. If you see, this field is actually more suitable for women. Women have a kind heart, they understand the situation, and they can handle the situation with smartness. That’s why, women can do it better but no such environment is present where women can show their capability in this field.
It’s very difficult to bring women candidates in the judiciary. I tried to bring women in the judiciary but I couldn’t. Neither did I find the intention of the judiciary nor the politicians to bring women in the field. I think the country where the number of women is high should have more women representative. But the scenario is different.
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE TO THE STUDENTS WHO WANT TO PURSUE LAW AS A CAREER?
Lots of people enter this field for the sake of money and status. So, this field desperately needs sincere people. Corruption has increased these days. Youths willing to end the dirty game of corruption should come into this field. Law is a field that demands a high level of education and proficiency. So first be sincere in your studies, sharpen your skill and then aspire to contribute your own country, not some foreign countries.
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Satya Mohan Joshi is leading scholar and writer. He is well known in historical and cultural research in Nepal. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at Tri Chandra College. He became the first director of the Archaeological and Cultural Department in 1959, and immediately established the Rastriya Naachghar – National Theatre in Kathmandu. He has more than 60 publications in various fields.