Counsel’s outburst sparks tension in Supreme Court

Published March 12, 2015
Irfan Qadir said he would not appear before the court. The bench then asked him to leave. —AP/File
Irfan Qadir said he would not appear before the court. The bench then asked him to leave. —AP/File

ISLAMABAD: Atmosphere during a hearing at the Supreme Court, in a case about the controversial purchase of armoured personnel carriers (APCs) worth Rs1.23 billion for Sindh police from a foreign vendor, became tense on Wednesday when it witnessed bitter disagreement between a counsel and the bench.

The acrimony led the bench to dictate an order stating that the counsel, Irfan Qadir, began shouting in the court when he was reprimanded and said he would not appear before the court. The bench then asked him to leave.

The order was dictated by a three-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Maqbool Baqir, which had expressed surprise that former attorney general Qadir was representing the Sindh police in the case even though former law minister Farooq Naek had appeared in earlier hearings on behalf of the provincial chief secretary.

Also read: Sindh govt submits documents in court in APCs purchase case

The court had taken up a petition filed by one Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi challenging the Sindh government’s decision to purchase 20 APCs — including three 8x8 Lazar BTR-SR 8808 and 4x4 BOV M11 multi-role armoured vehicles — to fight terrorism in Karachi. The petitioner had alleged that the deal had been made in violation of rules by the Sindh police department which had signed a contract with a foreign vendor instead of buying the vehicles from the Heavy Industries Taxila.

The court observed that it would like to know under which rule the department was authorised to sign the contract for purchasing APCs from a Serbian company.

Mr Qadir replied that the court should frame a questionnaire instead of asking questions at random and that the questions should be put to the petitioner. He said he was a senior counsel and was not pleading his personal case but that of a client, which was the Sindh police.

Taking exception to the manner in which the counsel replied, Justice Chaudhry reprimanded him by asking why his licence to practice in the Supreme Court should not be suspended because in the past as well he had been seen as failing to observe the court decorum.

Mr Qadir objected to the observation, saying if the bench did not want to hear him he would also not like to go for his arguments. The court retorted by saying that it would also not like to hear him.

The bench recalled that a notice of contempt of court had been issued to the counsel in another case. Mr Qadir replied that he had already submitted a reply.

Later, when the counsel appeared before the court in another case, the bench said it would not hear him and recalled that a case of contempt of court was pending against him.

The counsel said the case mentioned by the court was based on a suo motu action over the rumours of the former chief justice’s son Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s shady business dealings with property tycoon Malik Riaz.

The counsel again said that he had submitted a reply to the court “but it did not see the light of the day”.

The court observed that the case would indeed “see the light of the day” and ordered its office to fix its date sometime in next week.

Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Khawaja Ahmed Hassan, who appeared on a court notice to represent the federal government, argued that an agreement was signed between the representative of M/s Yugo Import Serbia and the IG of Sindh. The Sindh police department, according to him, was not a legal entity in the eyes of the law. Under the Sindh Rules of Business 1986 such contracts should be signed by the governor under the instructions of the provincial law department, he said.

Justice Chaudhry asked the law officer to help the court in determining whether the violation of rules committed by the signing of the contract could be rectified, particularly when the deal had been approved by the chief minister and the finance department of Sindh.

But the DAG argued that the deal had not been made in accordance with the rules of business and the Constitution.

Justice Khawaja observed that the court “could not give a certificate to the provincial government” by allowing it to rectify the “illegalities” in the contract.

The court asked the officials concerned to submit summaries of the approval granted by the chief minister and the interior ministry of the province.

Published in Dawn March 12th , 2015

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