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Pakistan Supreme Court gags media ahead of Chaudhry hearing

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] Wednesday blocked all media coverage of the proceedings against suspended Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry [official website; JURIST news archive] and ordered an end to television and newspaper commentary that could "interfere" with the legal process. In a statement, the court said:

Discussions, comments or write-ups which are likely to interfere with the legal process, ridicule, scandalise or malign the court or any of its judges or touching the merits of the case are strictly prohibited and violation in this regard shall be dealt with under the law relating to contempt of court.
The order came after several judges complained that they were being vilified in media reports.

Chaudhry was technically made "non-functional" [JURIST report] by a March 9 order of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. No specifics were provided at the time of his suspension but documents subsequently disclosed [JURIST report] suggest he was officially removed on suspicion of misusing his influence to get his son jobs and promotions. Lawyers and opposition leaders critical of the move consider the suspension an assault on the independence of the country's judiciary and an indirect bid by Musharraf to continue his eight-year rule in an election year. Pakistan's Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) began an inquiry into Chaudhry's alleged misconduct, but the investigation was suspended [JURIST report] Monday after Chaudhry appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the SJC lacked competence to try him. The Supreme Court Tuesday created a special panel of judges [JURIST report] to hear the challenge. PTI has more.

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