LAHORE: Justice Rana Bhagwandas took the oath of office as acting Chief Justice of Pakistan at the Supreme Court’s Karachi bench on Friday. He is the first Hindu to be appointed Pakistan’s chief justice, though for an interim period, as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry left the country on a 10-day tour of China.
There is nothing in the Constitution of Pakistan to bar non-Muslims from holding high judicial offices. Agra-born Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius, a Christian, served as the country’s chief justice from 1960 to 1968, and Mumbai-educated Justice Dorab Patel, a Parsi, held the coveted office of the Chief Justice of West Pakistan until the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
Incidentally, Patel was the only dissenting judge on the Lahore High Court bench that tried and convicted former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977.
Hailing from the Sindh province, where over three million Hindus (10 per cent of the province's population) live, Justice Bhagwandas is a well respected member of his community. and a shining star of Pakistani judiciary.