LAHORE: Tension between the Bar and the Bench over the issue of powers to take disciplinary action against lawyers is feared to rise as an All-Punjab Lawyers’ Representatives Convention is set to take up the matter on Saturday (today) with an unyielding stance against the powers exercised by the Lahore High Court while hearing complaints against misconduct of two advocates.

The Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) convened the convention on emergency grounds besides a call for a complete strike in the province. Leaders of top lawyer bodies, including Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Farogh Naseem and Supreme Court Bar Association President Syed Ali Zafar, have been invited to take part in the meeting.

The relations between the two pillars of justice have strained since the LHC took up complaints against two advocates allegedly involved in misbehaving with judicial officers and issued them show-cause notices.

In one case, the LHC chief justice-led seven-judge supervisory committee had suspended licence of the lawyer in ex-parte proceedings as the defendant, Rana Saeed Anwar, failed to appear for his defence. However, same day the PbBC executive committee taking up an application of Advocate Anwar restored his licence and declared the high court decision unlawful.

In the second case, the committee took up on Friday another chance for defence was given to Advocate Asif Bashir Mirza on medical grounds till Oct 21.

Senior members of the bar have diverse views on the prevailing dispute. Some see the high court action lawful while others call it an attempt to interfere in the jurisdiction of the bar council.

Mr Zafar believes that the powers to take disciplinary action against a lawyer should not rest with courts. He says the jurisdiction of courts in such matters affect the independence of the bar. In some cases the court would exercise its powers honestly and in good faith but the same could be exercised for victimisation at times, he says.

Mr Zafar argues that the powers of the high court under section 54 of Legal Practitioners & Bar Council Act 1973 are redundant before the jurisdiction of the provincial bar council. He admits that bar council needed to bring discipline in its ranks to punish those found guilty of professional misconduct. However, he states, the ultimate power to punish a lawyer on disciplinary grounds vests with the bar council. Only dialogue can ease the prevailing tension, he adds.

Supreme Court lawyer Azhar Siddique says the high court is lawfully exercising its jurisdiction to punish the lawyers involved in violation of conduct. He thinks the bar has overreacted to the high court action. He states that a tribunal of the PbBC, headed by a high court judge, is the right forum to decide the reference sent by court.

Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2016

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