The six-week judicial crisis in Pakistan took a new turn on Thursday as the Supreme Court accepted a petition challenging the right of a panel of top judges to hear allegations against suspended chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court admitted the motion and informed President Pervez Musharraf, the government and the Supreme Judicial Council, which is handling the controversial case against Chaudhry.
The move potentially opens the way for the court to assume control of the proceedings against the judge, whose suspension by Musharraf March 9 for alleged abuse of office drew nationwide protests by the legal fraternity and the political opposition.
Large rallies that often grew violent have destabilized the country and posed the greatest challenge to the army general's authority since he came to power in a military coup seven years ago.
Chaudhry's defence counsel and former interior minister Etzaz Ahsan filed a petition Wednesday contesting the composition, jurisdiction and proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council.
It also challenged the legitimacy of Musharraf's actions against the judge and maintained that only a full bench of the Supreme Court could hear the case.
The next hearing of the motion will be held April 24, when the fifth hearing of the charges against the judge will also take place.