ISLAMABAD: In a significant development, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has formed special committees in all the four provinces and in Islamabad to identify “inefficient and corrupt judges” and to “prepare” references against them.
PBC vice chairman Amjad Shah told Dawn on Sunday that the committees would submit their reports within a month and then the council would “prepare and submit references” against them to the president and the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for further action.
The special committees would also collect evidence that would form the basis of the references, the PBC vice chairman said, adding that the committee members would also review judgements of the judges.
Mr Shah said the names of the judges would not be disclosed till the filing of the references against them and no one would be allowed to engage in their character assassination. He said the names of the committee members would also be kept secret.
The PBC had earlier given a call for a countrywide strike of lawyers on June 14, the day when the SJC will take up references filed by the government against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice Karim Khan Agha of the Sindh High Court.
Group of lawyers from Punjab opposes June 14 strike call; Punjab bar distances itself from Islamabad gathering
However, a group of lawyers belonging to various bar associations of Punjab on Sunday gathered at a hotel in Islamabad and announced their decision to oppose the strike call.
The group also announced formation of an action committee and passed a resolution asking the SJC “to decide the references on merit without any pressure and in accordance with the law and the Constitution to fulfil the requirements of the rule of law”.
The participants of the meeting through the resolution “condemned” and opposed PBC’s demand for resignation of Law Minister Farogh Nasim and Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan over the reference issue. The group termed this demand a negation to previous resolutions of the PBC and other lawyers’ bodies of the country.
The resolution said President Arif Alvi had sent the references to the SJC fulfilling his legal and constitutional duty. “No judge or any office-bearer [of the lawyers’ bodies] is above the law,” it added.
According to the resolution passed by the group, it has been a long demand of the PBC, provincial bar councils and all other bar associations of the country that only the SJC could do accountability of judges and that the SJC should immediately decide references on merit.
Hours after the media and the social media reported the event dubbing it as a division within the lawyers’ community over the issue of filing of the references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha, the Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) issued a statement from Lahore clarifying that it “has no concern with the said news nor has any lawyers action committee been constituted by the [Punjab Bar] Council in this matter”.
Punjab Bar Council vice chairman Shah Nawaz Ismail Gujjar and chairman of its executive committee Iftikhar Ibrahim Qureshi in their joint statement said they “strongly condemned these kinds of immoral and unprofessional activities of the responsible (persons)” who were running a propaganda campaign on the social media.
They said the reference was based on “mala fide” intention and the SJC would decide it “on merit without any fear from any quarter.”
Earlier, speaking at the lawyers’ gathering at the hotel in Islamabad, former vice chairman of PBC Ramazan Chaudhry urged the two judges to step down till the completion of the hearing of the references against them by the SJC. He said they supported the independence of the judiciary and the SJC should perform its functions as per the Constitution.
Referring to the announcement by president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Amanullah Kanrani regarding the protests against the government’s move to file the references against the judges, Mr Chaudhry said the SCBA president should not make “personal decisions”.
Speaking at a press conference after a joint meeting of representative bodies of lawyers, including the Balochistan Bar Council, Balochistan High Court Bar Association and Quetta Bar Association in Quetta last week, Mr Kanrani had said that Balochistan’s lawyers would stage a sit-in at the entrance of the SC building and it would continue till the withdrawal of the reference by the government or its rejection by the SJC.
Mr Kanrani had also announced that the lawyers’ belonging to Balochistan would burn copies of the reference as a mark of protest at the main entrance of the SC building on June 14 when the SJC would take up the reference for hearing.
Only a day ago, all bar councils of Pakistan had sought resignation of federal Law Minister Farogh Nasim and Attorney General Anwer Mansoor Khan for filing of references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha. All six bar councils of the country in a meeting also deliberated upon suspension of their PBC membership and decided to convene another meeting on June 12 to initiate the process in this regard.
The bar councils — including the PBC, Punjab Bar Council, Sindh Bar Council, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council, Balochistan Bar Council and Islamabad Bar Council — had unanimously demanded the withdrawal of the references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha, stating that they were based on mala fide intentions and were filed without adhering to the mandatory provisions of relevant laws.
When contacted, the ex-PBC vice chairman who had addressed a separate group of lawyers in Islamabad earlier during the day said so far they had not nominated anyone as convener of the action committee. The names of the members and its convener would be announced soon, said Mr Chaudhry.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2019