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Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Friday sacked Pakistan's Chief Justice Iftakar Muhammad Choudhary on charges of misconduct and misuse of authority.
Justice Javed Iqbal was sworn-in as the acting chief justice although Justice Rana Bhagwandas is the second senior-most judge after Choudhary, who had held the position since 2005.
The action came after Justice Choudhary was called for discussions by Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and confronted with the charges in answer to which he could not give any satisfactory reply, an official announcement said.
"Musharraf on the advice of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has sent a reference to the supreme judicial council against the chief justice of Pakistan after receiving numerous complaints and serious allegations for misconduct, misuse of authority and actions prejudicial to the dignity of office of the chief justice of Pakistan," it said.
"It is confirmed. The president has taken the action after numerous complaints and having personally heard the chief justice. He has acted under the constitutional requirement," Information Minister Mohammed Ali Durran said.
Musharraf evoked powers under Article 209 of the Constitution to bring about the charges against Justice Choudhary, the announcement said.
Justice Iqbal was appointed Chief Justice as the second senior-most judge, Justice Das was currently touring India, officials said.
Incidentally, Justice Das, the only Hindu judge to have held the high post of senior judge of the Apex court, was made acting chief justice several times in the past whenever Justice Choudhary went on a foreign visit.
Clarifying the government stand, Law Minister Wasi Jaffar told Geo TV that though Justice Das was the senior-most judge, he was out of the country and thus as of now Justice Iqbal has been appointed as the acting chief justice.
Asked about Justice Choudhary, he said, "As of now he will become non-functional."
Analysts here said that that this was the first time in the chequered history of Pakistan's judiciary the chief justice was summarily removed and tried under Presidential reference by supreme judicial council which consisted of the chief justice, two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court and two chief justices of provincial courts.
Ever since he took over the post in June 2005, Justice Choudhary, who earlier served as judge of Balochistan high court, has shown judicial activism, hitherto not familiar to Pakistan's judiciary, which in the past was accused of towing the line of the military and governments of the day.
Besides expediting the clearance of the backlog of the cases, Choudhary also actively pursued cases of disappearing persons and consistently pressured the intelligence agencies to produce them in the court.
He, however, has been accused in the past using his powers to appoint his son Arslan on a lucrative job.
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