COLOMBO  - Sri Lanka's supreme court asked parliament on Thursday to suspend a hearing against the country's top judge for alleged financial wrongdoing until the legality of the impeachment process is decided. A three-judge bench declined to issue a formal injunction against an 11-member parliamentary select committee (PSC) due to open the impeachment hearing on Friday, but it asked the committee to put its proceedings on hold. A senior official in parliament however said the PSC would meet as scheduled on Friday morning, and that there were no immediate plans to put off the impeachment proceedings.

 "The Supreme Court asked parliament to hold (postpone) its hearing until the court gives a determination on the constitutionality of the impeachment process," a court official told AFP earlier on condition of anonymity. Rights groups have said the impeachment motion is the latest sign of efforts by President Mahinda Rajapakse to tighten his grip on power after crushing the Tamil Tiger separatist rebels in 2009 at the end of a decades-long war. The impeachment move followed a Supreme Court decision last month that effectively scuppered a bill giving more powers to the economic development minister, who is the president's younger brother Basil. Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, 54, has denied the financial wrongdoing alleged in the impeachment case brought by the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance.