Legal battle looms over Pakistan chief justice's removal
May 9, 2007 - 3:30:32 PM

Islamabad, May 9 - Pakistan seems headed for a major legal battle as the Supreme Court next , including one filed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry challenging his sacking and President Pervez Musharraf's reference against him for alleged misconduct.

Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas constituted the 14-judge bench on Tuesday on the recommendation of a five-member bench that stayed the proceedings in Musharraf's reference before the Supreme Judicial Council - that is considering Chaudhry's dismissal.

Ironically, Bhagwandas and three other senior judges will not sit in the full court. This is because Tuesday's five-bench order bars them from doing so on the ground they had earlier declined to hear the petitions, Dawn reported Wednesday.

The other judges are Javed Iqbal, Abdul Hameed Dogar and Mohammad Raza Khan. All four are members of the SJC.

The full bench will begin day-to-day hearings from May 14 to decide 23 petitions filed by the chief justice and others, including the Adliya Bachao Committee, the Pakistan Bar Council - and the Supreme Court Bar Association -.

Headed by judge Khalilur Rehman Ramday, the full court comprises judges Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, Falak Sher, Shakirullah Jan, M. Javed Buttar, Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Saiyed Saeed Ashhad, Nasirul Mulk, Fayyaz Ahmed, Ijaz Ahmed and Syed Jamshed Ali, as also ad hoc judges Hamid Ali Mirza and Ghulam Rabbani.

'Amid the raging judicial crisis, legal experts are watching with interest and attaching great importance to the full court,' Dawn said.

The chief justice, in fact, had constituted the bench last November to settle a dispute between two claimants for the SCBA presidency.

'Now himself a petitioner before the full court, the chief justice has raised as many as 132 questions, including the competence of the SJC to try the Chief Justice of Pakistan -, constitution of the Supreme Judicial Council without the CJP,' the newspaper said.

This apart, there were issues like personal bias and prospects of advancement of some SJC members, alleged mala fide on the part of Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the haste with which the president acted against the CJP, illegal assumption of office by the acting chief justice, and the executive assault on the independence of the judiciary.

On his part, Musharraf Tuesday reiterated he had sent the reference received from Prime Minister Aziz against the chief justice to the SJC since he was 'convinced about its validity'.

'I was convinced about the reference and that was why it was sent to the SJC by setting aside personal relationships,' the president said while addressing the 13th convocation of the Army Electrical and Mechanical Engineering College in Rawalpindi.

'I found some serious observations against the chief justice and decided to confront him,' Musharraf maintained, adding that he had nothing personal against the chief justice.

'I am of the strong view that while dealing with the matters of state, personal and social relationships must be set aside as state and the nation come first,' he added.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Bar Council on Tuesday announced that lawyers would continue their protest against the presidential reference and would observe on a daily basis a one-hour token strike and a four-hour hunger strike throughout the country.

A meeting of the National Action Committee comprising leaders of the bar has been called in Islamabad on May 11 to take stock of the situation and chalk out the future course of action.

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