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Bhagwan Das to take over as Pak acting chief justice on Saturday

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
March 23, 2007 19:19 IST
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As Rana Bhagwan Das prepares to take over as Pakistan's acting chief justice on Saturday, suspended chief justice Iftikar Muhammad Chaudhry, facing allegations of misuse of office and authority, on Friday sought an open trial and expressed confidence that he will get justice.

Justice Das, the only Hindu judge of the Supreme Court, remained in Karachi ever since he arrived from India from a
pilgrimage two days ago even after issuance of a formal notification by President Pervez Musharraf appointing him as
ACJ.

He would be sworn in on Saturday, in the Supreme Court registry in Karachi itself and is expected to come to Islamabad later.

Justice Chaudhry, who during his appearance before the five-member Supreme Judicial Council, had insisted that Justice Das be made the Acting Chief Justice, has reportedly said he was 'thrilled' over his return from India.

"I will get justice. I know the government is in search of the moves that change the public opinion about me, but it would be an exercise in futility," Justice Chaudhry was quoted as telling those who met him at his residence.

Justice Chaudhry said he was 'entirely innocent' and called for an open trial by the SJC.

"With reference to this trial my plea is that I am entirely innocent. That is why I want the public to know of the charges as well as of my defence. This should not cause any embarrassment to anyone, and certainly not to me," he said. "I want all the citizens of Pakistan to know that their chief justice is not at fault."

Aitejaz Ahsan, the head of the four-member lawyers' team defending Chaudhry, said the Constitution does not bar a non-Muslim from becoming a Chief Justice and welcomed Justice Das's elevation as the ACJ.

Another of Chaudhry's lawyers Muneer Malik said yesterday that while Das, as head of the Supreme Judicial Council to conduct trial into the allegations against Chaudhry was acceptable, but not as the ACJ.

"I am proud that each member of my family has stood by me in this difficult and trying time. They have given me strength. I believe that Allah the Almighty will vindicate me," Justice Chaudhry said.

He also praised eight judges of different courts who have resigned in protest against his suspension.

Chaudhry said he has 'great respect for those judges of the High and subordinate courts who have sacrificed their jobs for the cause of the rule of law'.

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K J M Varma in Islamabad
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