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'Innocent' Justice Chaudhry calls for open trial

Written by: Staff

Islamabad, Mar 23: Claiming to be ''entirely innocent'', Pakistan's suspended Chief Justice, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has called for an open trial by the Supreme Judicial Council.

''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. Since I'm innocent and want to enter upon my defence, I want all the citizens of Pakistan to know that their chief justice is not at fault,'' he said.

He also defended his decision to accept the invitation of the legal fraternity to address them, saying ''that taking bar associations into confidence about (the) prevailing constitutional issues is the duty of every chief justice.'' In his first-ever interview to an English daily since his suspension under a presidential reference on March 9, Justice Chaudhry said he was proud that each member of his family had stood by him in this difficult and trying time.

''They have given me strength. I believe that Allah, the Almighty, will vindicate me,'' said Justice Chaudhry.

He was extremely cautious while discussing the issues, and chose the words carefully to avoid any impact on his case.

Insisting that he was innocent, the Chief Justice called upon the Supreme Judicial Council to grant him a public trial so that the council's image does not suffer.

Defending it as a perfectly ''usual'' mode of behaviour for any Chief Justice, he dispelled the impression that an interface with the judicial fraternity was in response to the current judicial showdown with the government.

''As a judge I firmly hold that I can speak to the Bar about constitutional issues of interest to the Bar and the Bench,'' he said adding that it was was his duty to take the Bar Associations into confidence about the prevailing constitutional issues.

Acknowledging the decision of at least a dozen junior and senior lawyers, who had resigned in his support, Mr Chaudhry unequivocally praised them by stating that he had great respect for those judges of the High and subordinate courts who have sacrificed their jobs for the cause of the rule of law.

Justice Chaudhry, who was widely acclaimed for taking suo motu notices on matters of public interests and rebuking police officials for their inefficiency, apparently annoyed the government when he last year nullified privatisation of the the country's largest steel unit, Pakistan Steel Mills and questioned transparency of the deal.

Justice Chaudhry, who will appear before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for the thid time on April 3 in a presidential reference against him, is being represented by a team of senior jurists including Aitzaz Ahsan and including Munir Malik, Hamid Khan, Tariq Mahmood, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Qazi Anwar.

The panel, said the Chief Justice, was drawn from all the provinces of Pakistan and comprised senior lawyers who held representative positions in the Pakistan Bar Council and the Supreme Court Bar Association.

The Chief Justice declined to talk about his meeting with the President and the circumstances in which he visited the President Camp Office on March 9.

He said these matters would be taken up in the course of the proceedings of the reference before the Supreme Judicial Council and he would put them at that forum.


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