ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) — the parent organisation that regulates affairs of the legal fraternity — has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a direction declaring that Law Minister Farogh Naseem cannot stay a member of the council.
“The respondent No 1 [the minister] ceases to be a member of the PBC after becoming a federal minister due to the provisions of Section 11C of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 as well as Rules 108-O,” argues a petition moved by Kamran Murtaza in his capacity as vice-chairman of the PBC.
Section 11C of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 deals with the cessation of membership of the PBC, stating that a member of the council will cease to be honoured as such if he is appointed to an office of profit in the service of Pakistan; suspended or removed from practice under the provisions of Chapter VII; incurs any of the disqualifications specified in section 11B such as if (s)he was dismissed or removed from service of government or of a public statutory corporation; has been convicted for an offence involving moral turpitude; has been found guilty of professional misconduct; or has been declared a tout or an un-discharged insolvent.
Quotes Section 11C of Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act
The petition argues that the minister cannot stay a member of the PBC in the light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the 2010 case of Pakistan vs Dr Mubashir Hassan and 2013 Zafar Mehmood Mughal vs Sajjad Akbar Abbasi. It contends that the minister became a member of the council from Sindh in the elections held in December 2015 and whilst being a member of the council, he was appointed law minister through a notification of the Cabinet Division on Aug 8, 2018.
Recalling that he wrote on Sept 11 to the attorney general on the instruction of the council, the petition seeks out whether in view of legal provisions, the minister ceases to be a member of the PBC. The note being referred to stated that under circumstances of the cessation of the membership of the minister, another member — Muhammad Yasin Azad, being an unsuccessful candidate of the 2015 elections — had to be appointed as a member, as provided under Section 15 of the 1973 Act.
But the attorney-general, in a Sept 26 response, contended that the minister cannot be deprived of PBC membership. Thus, the PBC has no option other than invoking the extraordinary jurisdiction of the apex court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, given that the matter is of public importance.
The petition contends that the minister cannot be advocate and also be subject to the terms and conditions of service of the government in view of Rule 175 of the 1976 Rules. This, it maintains, will amount to a conflict of interest. The petition states that the PBC cannot have a member who cannot appear before a court, including the Supreme Court, as an advocate due to his portfolio as a federal minister.
Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018