Each district has a court of first instance, civil and criminal, as well as a court of appeals and 14 zonal courts. There are five regional courts—at Ka¯thmāndu, Dhankuta, Pokhara, Surkhet, and Dipayal—to which further appeals may be taken. At the apex is the supreme court in Ka¯thmāndu, which is empowered to issue writs of habeas corpus and decide on the constitutionality of laws. The court is composed of a chief justice, assisted usually by six other judges, with seven additional judges in reserve; all are appointed by the king. The supreme court is the court of last resort, but the king may grant pardons and suspend, commute or remit sentences of any court. There are separate military courts which generally deal only with military personnel. In 1992, the supreme court ruled that civilians may not be tried in the military courts. In April 2001, the supreme court appointed its first female judge.
The 1990 constitution declared the independence of the judiciary. The supreme court has exercised considerable independence in practice, declaring provisions of the Citizenship Act of 1991 and parts of the Labor Act of 1992 unconstitutional. In 1995 the constitutional court also ruled that the dissolution of the parliament at the request of a former primer minister was unconstitutional.
The 1990 constitution affords a number of procedural safeguards for criminal defendants including the right to counsel and protection from double jeopardy and from retroactive application of laws.
There is no jury system. Special tribunals hear cases involving terrorism or treason under a treason act.