Pakistan's supreme court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry constituted a 17-judge bench on Thursday, to hear petitions challenging the amnesty granted to President Asif Ali Zardari and close aides under a controversial law that expired last month.
The larger bench, which will be headed by the chief justice, will begin hearing the petitions and other cases related to the National Reconciliation Ordinance from December 7, said a statement issued by the apex court.
The NRO, issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf two years ago, granted immunity in graft cases to over 8,000 people, including Zardari and his close aides like Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Salman Faruqui, secretary general to the president.
The law expired on November 28 after the government failed to get it endorsed by parliament within a deadline set by the apex court.
Some legal experts believe the lapse of the NRO has raised the possibility of corruption cases being revived against the beleaguered president. However, Zardari has said he enjoys immunity from prosecution as long as he continues to hold the post of president.
Two petitions challenging the NRO filed by former federal minister Mubashar Hassan and retired bureaucrat Roedad Khan are pending in the supreme court. They said in their petitions that the NRO went against the constitution and basic rights.