Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday admitted a petition filed by suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry, questioning proceedings against him by a panel of judges and issued notice to President Pervez Musharraf as the first respondent.
Chaudhry, being defended by a battery of high-profile lawyers and backed by huge rallies by supporters outside the court every time he attends the hearing of Supreme Judicial Council hearing charges of misconduct and misuse of power against him, filed a 200-page petition on Wednesday, with 132 Constitutional objections.
His petition created history as he became the first Chief Justice of Pakistan who sought justice from the very court he headed.
On Thursday, his petition was initially rejected by the Registrar of the court but later a three-judge bench took it on file and issued notices to President Pervez Musharraf as the first respondent as also Secretary of Supreme Judicial Council headed by Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwan and Law Ministry officials.
Interestingly, the bench, which admitted the petition stating that it should decide about its admissibility and not the court staff, posted the case for hearing to April 24, the same day when Chaudhry is to attend the next hearing of SJC.
Chaudhry's lawyer, Aietjaz Ahasan, told the media that Chaudhry would attend the hearing of his petition to the court first and later go before the SJC, whose legality was questioned by his petition.
The SJC on Wednesday rejected Chaudhry's petition, which wanted the verdict first on his allegations of bias against three of the five judges of SJC, saying that it cannot give any piece-meal judgements and adjourned the case to April 24.
Like in the previous cases, on Wednesday, too, lawyers and opposition activists held rallies in front of the apex court and several cities while advocates boycotted courts all over the country.
Ahsan told the media that the petition containing 132 legal objections questioned every aspect of suspension and hearing against Chaudhry.
The petition questioned the validity of Musharraf's reference, the legality and composition of SJC and notification issued by the President appointing Das the Acting Chief Justice and the legality of his appointment as head of the SJC.
In other words, the petition questioned every aspect of the case.
Chaudhry's lawyers admitted that the petition was aimed at ending in-camera proceedings of SJC and holding an open hearing in the court, which can be covered by the media.
Law Minister Wasi Zafar rejected as 'misleading', remarks by Ahsan that SJC cannot legally function without a permanent Chief Justice.
In a statement on Wednesday, he said the Constitution laid down procedures to hold accountable all holders of Constitutional offices, and this procedure was being followed.
He said Article 260 stated that 'the Chief Justice in relation to the Supreme Court or a High Court includes the judge for the time being acting as the Chief Justice', hence Das rightfully chairs the SJC.