CAIRO - In a new blow to Egypt's rocky transition after the downfall of president Hosni Mubarak, a Cairo court suspended Tuesday, April 10, the formation of a panel tasked with writing the country's new constitution.
"This means the assembly's activities are frozen," lawyer Khaled Abo Bakr said, Reuters reported.
It is suspended until further notice, until the judicial panel convenes.
The Egyptian parliament, dominated by Islamists, has created a 100-member assembly to write a new constitution for the cuontry after Mubarak's ouster.
But the panel, in which lawmakers control half of its seats, was hit by several walkouts over complaints that the assembly was dominated by Islamists.
But accusations are denied by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has most seats in both house of parliament, saying the panel contains only 48 Islamists, 36 from parliament and 12 from outside.
So far, around 30 members of the assembly have withdrawn, including Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, and the Coptic Church.
The dispute prompted lawyers and activists to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the panel.
The Cairo administrative court "halts the implementation of the decision by the parliament's speaker to form the constitutional assembly to draft the constitution," Judge Ali Fekri said.
The injunction could delay the introduction of a constitution needed urgently to clarify the powers of Egypt's new head of state, due to take over from ruling generals by mid-year.
The controversy over the panel's legality has prompted calls for a new declaration on the panel's makeup.
"The constituent assembly is unrepresentative of Egyptians," an advisory council that helps the ruling military council said, the BBC reported.
"A new constitutional declaration should be issued... specifying how the constituent assembly is formed.
The council argued that article 60 of the current constitutional declaration helped one force to control the assembly.
Article 60 of the current declaration was so vague that it has left the assembly in the hands of one force."
The current constitution was suspended by the army rulers in February after Mubarak's overthrow.
The new document is expected to include more freedoms and define rules for the authorities including setting out the terms of presidential power.
It could also decide which institution of state will effectively rule the Arab world's most populous country.
The government and parliament had argued that the court had no authority over the move to form the constituent assembly.
But judge Fekri insisted that the court has the jursdiction to rule on the panel's legality.The court "rejected the argument that the court is not specialized and decided to halt the decision" that formed the assembly.