Supporters throng Supreme Court as Justice Chaudhry appears in SJC
Islamabad, Mar 13 (UNI) Hundreds of Pakistani lawyers gathered today outside the Supreme Court of Pakistan building to express solidarity with the suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who appeared before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to defend charges framed against him in the presidential reference.
Rowdy scenes were witnessed before the arrival of Justice Chaudhry as huge contingent of Islamabad police tried to stop lawyers and top opposition leaders to enter the court premises.
All the main roads leading to the constitutional avenue where the Supreme Court is located, were closed and barricades erected to stop supporters.
Justice Chaudhry, who was reportedly under house arrest, arrived in the Supreme Court in an official vehicle. None of his brother judges or leaders of political parties with exception of the veteran politician Asghar Khan was allowed to meet the suspected CJ.
Even Asghar Khan told reporters after meeting Chaudhry that the former Chief Justice had been denied access to visitors, newspapers, telephones and television.
Today, top leaders of Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party and Islamic opposition alliance, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) were present in front of the main gate of the Supreme Court. MMA chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad, deputy secretary general Maulana Ghafoor Haideri and central leader Liaqat Baloch addressed lawyers and condemned Justice Chaudhry's suspension.
Pakistan's private Geo TV quoted Justice Chaudhry as saying on arrival in Supreme Court that he would not resign.
His remarks came to the backdrop of reported pressure on him by the government to step down as the CJ.
He also said some of his brother judges had developed personal grudge against him, adding that he planned to send reference against a few judges before his removal.
He said he would expect an open trial in the reference filed against him.
The SJC is headed by acting Chief Justice, two senior most judges of the Supreme Court and two senior most Chief Justices of the High Court.
On Friday last, President had sent home Justice Chaudhry amid serious allegations for ''misconduct and misuse of authority''.
The former Chief Justice was summoned to the army house in Rawalpindi on Friday morning where President Musharraf handed over the charge-sheet.
Law Minister Wasi Zafar claimed that the reference was filed after Justice Chaudhry failed to satisfy the President against authenticity of the charge-sheet.
The suspended Chief Justice received publicity in the local media for taking suo moto action in different cases of public interest, coming very hard on police officials and dubbing them as inefficient and corrupt.
He was not enjoying cordial relations with the government since last year when a full bench of the Supreme Court headed by him challenged transparency and honesty in privatization deal of the Pakistan Steel Mills and directed the ruling party to strike it down.
Chaudhry is the first Chief Justice but fifth judge to face presidential reference in the last 40 years. Among others were a chief justice of Peshawar high court and three judges of different high courts.
But majority of jurists challenged President Musharraf's action saying that he was not empowered to suspend the Chief Justice unless completion of hearing process by the judicial council.
The article 209 says that a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court may be removed from office by the President only when the Supreme Judicial Council finds him incapable of performing the duties of his office or guilty of misconduct after hearing a Presidential reference.