ISLAMABAD, March 10: Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry remained incommunicado on Saturday for the second consecutive day and a heavy police contingent was posted to guard his residence.
The Pakistan Bar Council described the action as a case of ‘illegal house arrest’. “Yes, he is in illegal detention,” Ali Ahmed Kurd, vice-chairman of the PBC, told reporters outside the official residence of the chief justice.
“There is no other way to describe the situation as no one is being allowed to meet him,” he said after police officials stopped him and other lawyers from going inside the chief justice’s residence.
The views expressed by Munir A. Malik, the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, were equally strong as he described it an attempt to pressure the chief justice into resigning.
Nestled in the Margalla hills, the judges’ colony in Islamabad remained the focus of intense activity throughout the day as several leaders and members of lawyers’ associations gathered outside Justice Iftikhar’s residence.
A battery of newspaper reporters and television teams also accompanied them, trying to get a glimpse of the ‘suspended’ chief justice, who has not been seen in public since his fateful meeting with President Gen Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi on Friday.
After the meeting at the President’s camp office in Rawalpindi, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry tried to return to the Supreme Court on Friday evening, but was stopped by police officials. They then escorted him to his official residence.
Although there has been no official order of ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, the gate of his house has remained in control of the police.
Security was further stepped up on Saturday with the deployment of more policemen and officials in plain clothes in the vicinity of Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s house.
Police were under instructions not to let anyone into the building. The officials posted there were polite but firm in their stand that the chief justice’s residence was out of bounds for lawyers and journalists. They did not say anything about judges, but a Supreme Court judge, Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, was not allowed to enter the premises.
A good number of lawyers stayed around after security officials informed them that permission was being sought from the higher authorities to allow them to go inside. But after waiting `for over an hour’, the Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Ali Ahmed Kurd, and the President of SCBA, Munir Malik, decided to leave the place to hold a joint meeting in the Supreme Court building.
The meeting adopted yet another resolution accusing the authorities of trying to obtain Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Resignation by force.
By removing the national as well as the Supreme Court flags from the official residence of the chief justice, they said, the government was sending him a signal that he was no more the chief justice. They regretted that the chief justice was not allowed to move freely and was not allowed to meet even his counsel.
All bar councils and bar associations have decided to observe a `black day’ on March 13 – the day the Supreme Judicial Council takes up the presidential reference. Black flags will fly atop all premises housing bar associations.
While demanding proceedings before the SJC to be held in the open court with full access to all lawyers and journalists, they offered legal assistance to the chief justice and resolved to defend him at the SJC on March 13.
No complaint has ever been converted into a reference even though 27 complaints against sitting judges — one of them against a sitting chief justice of a high court — is pending before the SJC, chairman of the PBC executive committee, Qazi Anwar, alleged.
Condemnation: The executive committee of the PBC, through a resolution, condemned the summoning of the chief justice to the Army House and ‘confining’ him there for over five hours.
“By doing so President Musharraf has insulted the entire judicial institution while the prestige of the country as a democratic and independent state has also been undermined,” the resolution said.
The committee also condemned the appointment of the acting chief justice and said only Justice Rana Bhagwandas, being the senior most judge, could act as the chief justice.
The committee also called upon the chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to take a firm stand and face the allegations boldly to vindicate himself.
PETITION: A joint petition was filed with the apex court on Saturday by Advocates Athar Minallah and Yahya Khan Afridi against the president’s move to suspend the chief justice.
They urged the court to declare the decision of March 9 and detention of the chief justice as illegal and unconstitutional. The SJC should suspend its proceedings till a decision on this petition, the advocates said.