Pakistan's suspended judge will bypass judicial council
Apr 23, 2007 - 12:05:46 PM

Islamabad, April 23 - Lawyers representing Pakistan's suspended chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry will appear before the Supreme Court to argue his petition, preferring it to the Supreme Judicial Council - whose competence they have already challenged.

They will 'keep the SJC waiting' as hearings at the two judicial forums coincide Tuesday. The apex court and the SJC are both due to meet at 9.30 a.m. to take up cases involving the chief justice.

President Pervez Musharraf, who suspended Chaudhry on March 9 charging him with misuse of office to promote his son, has referred the case to the SJC. It is called presidential reference in legal parlance.

'The Supreme Court is the apex judicial forum of the country. That's why constitutionally we are bound to give priority to the Supreme Court proceedings,' Aitzaz Ahsan, Chaudhry's lead counsel, told the Daily Times.

'The SJC is just an inquiry tribunal and not a formal court; it formulates its findings of investigation and forwards them to the referring authority. The SC is a formal court which can rule against the SJC,' said Ali Ahmed Kurd, another of Chaudhry's defence lawyers.

In his petition, Chaudhry maintains that the SJC is not a competent forum to hear his case, which should be heard by a full court of the Supreme Court.

Chaudhry has alleged bias on the part of some of the SJC members, alleging that there were charges and inquiries against them, rendering them incompetent to hear his case.

His suspension triggered nationwide protests by lawyers across the country with opposition parties joining in. An attack on a TV channel office also brought in sections of the media.

Musharraf has termed the campaign 'a conspiracy' and said that what is essentially a legal matter has been 'politicised'.

The protests have continued and lawyers have boycotted the courts each time Chaudhry's case has been taken up in any constitutional forum. Media has reported 'a significant increase' in the number of protestors six weeks after they took to the streets.

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