Bhagwandas - Pakistan's only Hindu Chief Justice - dies

Karachi: Pakistan's former acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas - the only Hindu to serve at the top judicial post in the country - has died here after a brief illness.

73-year-old former judge, who was under treatment for a heart ailment at a private hospital here, died yesterday. 

Bhagwandas - a highly respected member of the country's judiciary - was the first Hindu and the second non-Muslim to serve as chief of the highest court in Pakistan.

He was the acting Chief Justice of Supreme Court during the 2007 judicial crisis. He also briefly acted as the CJ when incumbent Iftikhar Chaudhry went on foreign tours in 2005 and 2006. He had been a Supreme Court judge since February 2000. Bhagwandas also worked as the Chairman of Federal Public Service Commission of Pakistan.

Born in Naseerabad, Larkana District in Sindh province in December 1942, Bhagwandas had a postgraduate degree in Islamic Studies and was considered an expert on constitutional law. He was a practising advocate for about two years before being appointed as a judge in July 1967. He was made a judge of the Sindh High Court in June 1994.

In 2002, the Sindh High Court had dismissed a challenge to his appointment to the higher judiciary on the grounds that he was a non-Muslim. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued condolence messages expressing grief and sorrow over the demise of Bhagwandas.

Prime Minister Sharif appreciated the role played by Justice Bhagwandas for the service of nation during his long tenure as the apex court judge, saying he was a firm believer of rule of law, democracy and principles.

The cabinet also offered its condolences on his demise. One-minute silence was observed at the start of the cabinet meeting.

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