Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, next in seniority to suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, will be sworn in as the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan as soon as he returns from India on March 22, law minister Wasi Zafar said on Saturday.
Justice Bhagwan Das — the only Hindu to have risen to the highest level of Pakistan's judiciary — is presently in India on a pilgrimage. He has been acting chief justice on several occasions in the past, whenever justice Chaudhry went on leave or abroad.
With protests against the suspension showing no signs of easing off, the government relaxed restrictions on the top judge, allowing opposition leaders and lawyers to meet him. It also clarified that he was not sacked but "sent on leave". "The Hon'ble Chief Justice was sent on leave under Sec 2 of the Judges Compulsory Leave Order 1970," Zaffar said in a statement.