A Hindu judge took over as new acting chief justice of Pakistan here on Saturday in the shadow of a judicial crisis that has jolted the country's military leader Pervez Musharraf.
Rana Bhagwandas, the senior judge of the Supreme Court, along with four other senior judges, will deal with the fate of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was suspended and charged with misconduct by the president on March 9.
National and regional bar associations boycotted Bhagwandas' oath-taking ceremony held at the branch office in Karachi of the Islamabad-based top court amid tight security.
The 64-year-old judge from Sindh province replaced justice Javed Iqbal who was as acting chief judge for two weeks as Baghwandas was on leave to India.
Lawyers have held daily countrywide protests since the suspension of Chaudhry. Eight judges and a deputy attorney general have already resigned in protest.
Chaudhry has denied the charges, including that he unfairly gained promotions for his son and insisted on the use of cars and aircraft to which he was not entitled.
Bhagwandas is expected to head a reconstituted judicial council for further hearing of the case against Chaudhry, which is scheduled on April 3.
The council held two sessions last week and a scheduled third sitting was postponed, amid demonstrations by the law community demanding reinstatement of Chaudhry.