Sacked Pakistani chief justice rejects eviction notice


Islamabad : Sacked Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has refused to accept a notice asking him to vacate his official residence here, saying that he was not a “retired” judge.

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In another development, former acting chief justice Rana Bhagwandas’ family said he had been put under house arrest in Karachi, even as the police said he had only been asked to restrict his movements in view of the “terror environment” prevailing in the city.

According to Chaudhry, the rules did not permit the authorities to force a former judge to leave government accommodation within six months of laying down office.

The eviction notice was not served, as is the practice, through the law ministry or the Supreme Court registrar but through the Public Works Department (PWD) and was signed by an executive engineer.

“The deposed chief justice returned the notice with a hand-written message, challenging the government’s position, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported Sunday.

A number of deposed judges, including Chaudhry, have been held under detention inside the Judges Enclave near the upscale Margalla Hills neighbourhood here since President Pervez Musharraf imposed an emergency Nov 3 last year.

Chaudhry was heading a Supreme Court bench that was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging Musharraf’s eligibility to run for a second term in the presidential election last October. The bench had said the election could go ahead but barred the declaration of the result till it decided on the petitions. Musharraf had won the election hands down.

The eviction order issued to Chaudhry said, “It is informed that Chief Justice House, under your occupation, is required to be vacated for handing over to the present Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mr Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, as he is facing great inconvenience in his present residence due to non-availability of office facility in the residence.”

“It is, therefore, requested to kindly vacate the said house within a week’s time so that the Honourable Chief Justice is shifted to the house at the earliest,” the order added.

Copies of the order were sent to the Supreme Court registrar and the PWD director general.

In his reply, Chaudhry maintained that he was still the chief justice under the 1973 constitution and was entitled to retain his government accommodation till he retired in Dec 2013.

He recalled a May 21, 2007 decision of Supreme Court giving judges six months time to vacate their government residences.

He also said that he was under house arrest since Nov 3 and had no idea what was going on “against my interests”. He added, “Therefore, in these circumstances, I cannot be pressed to vacate this house within a week’s period.”

In the case of Bhagwandas, his family members told the newspaper that he had arrived at his Bath Island residence at around 5.30 p.m. Saturday after administering oath to the newly-elected governing body members of the Karachi Bar Association when police cordoned off his home and asked him not to leave.

However, Sindh police chief Azhar Ali Farooqi said Bhagwandas was not under house arrest.

“He has been advised to restrict his movement in view of the terror environment prevailing in the city,” Farooqi maintained, adding that the step had been taken as part of security measures to protect the judge’s life.

“We have also enhanced security in the neighbourhood,” Farooqi pointed out.