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Acting Chief Justice of Pak visits Darbar Sahib
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Wagah, February 8
Justice Rana Bhagwandas, who became the first Hindu to assume the top post of acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, though for a brief period, was honoured with "Siropa" (robe of honour) during his maiden visit to Harmander Sahib, here today.

He was on a private visit to Amritsar, Ropar and Chandigarh with Justice Khalil-ur Rehman Ramde, another judge of the Pakistan Supreme Court and his wife. They were received at the Wagah border by Mr Gurdev Singh, District and Sessions Judge, Mr Gurwaryam Singh, SDM and other senior judges and officials of the district administration. Justice Bhagwandas also visited Jallianwala Bagh and Ram Bagh (Summer Palace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh).

Justice Bhagwandas is the second non-Muslim judge in Pakistan to reach the top position in the judiciary. Earlier, Justice A. R. Cornelius, a Christian, had served as the Chief Justice from 1960-68.

Justice Bhagwandas (64), one of the few Hindu judges in Pakistan, took the oath in December last year. He assumed the charge when the incumbent, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, was away to China.

Hailing from Karachi, Justice Bhagwandas is known for his hold on the constitutional law. He joined the judicial service in 1967, and made his way up as sessions judge and judge of the Sindh High Court. He had also done his Masters in Islamic studies. Born on December 20, 1942, into a Hindu family in Sindh, Justice Bhagwandas joined the Pakistan judicial service in July, 1967.

Some years ago when Justice Bhagwandas’ position as the judge of a high court was challenged for being non-Muslim, the petitioner was not only condemned by other judges of the high court but a large number of lawyers protested against the petition.

He was promoted to the Supreme Court in 2000 and will retire in December, 2007, after attaining the age of 65. However, he may not become permanent chief justice as the present incumbent would retire in December, 2013, six years after Justice Bhagwandas’ retirement.

In the mid-1990s, after a long controversy, the Supreme Court itself gave a ruling that the appointment of chief justices in high courts and the apex court would be made on the sole criterion of seniority.

Earlier, Justice Ramdev had managed to visit his ancestral village Karyam in Nawan Shahr district. The judge had returned with four bricks from an old wall of his house and honoris causa, presented by Guru Nanak Dev University.
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