ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) in its general body meeting on Wednesday declared that the filing of references against two superior court judges smacked of the government’s mala fide intention and expressed the hope that the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) would not become party to such designs of the government.
“The manner and haste shown in filing of the references and their timing raise eyebrows in the legal fraternity, therefore, we disapprove the same,” stated a resolution read out by PBC vice chairman Syed Amjad Shah two days before the commencement of proceedings against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court.
The vice chairman said the PBC expected that the SJC would proceed with the matter purely in accordance with law and the Constitution. He said the lawyers hoped that better sense would prevail and the references would be quashed.
Read more: Comment: Scrap reference against Justice Isa
What the 22-member PBC demanded with a majority vote of 14 was immediate resignation of federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem and Attorney General Anwar Mansoor after cancelling the PBC membership of the minister.
The PBC issued a show cause notice to the law minister for retaining the bar council membership despite being a minister. He was reminded that being a minister, he could not retain the PBC membership or continue with legal practice under Section 108 C of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules, 1976.
Through the notice, the PBC asked the minister to come up with a reply within 15 days as the matter would be taken up in a meeting in the last week of June.
“He is like a brother to us. Therefore, we will advise the minister to adopt a dignified way of offering his resignation as minister,” said Mr Shah.
In reply to a question, the PBC vice chairman said a decision regarding launch of a fully-fledged movement similar to the historic movement of lawyers in 2007 would be taken after the outcome of the June 14 proceedings of the SJC.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan and the law minister should come forward and openly take ownership for instituting the references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha.
Meanwhile, a joint action committee comprising vice chairman and chairman executive committee of the PBC, president and secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), vice chairmen of all the provincial and Islamabad Bar Councils, presidents of all the high court bar associations at the principal seats as well as the Islamabad High Court Bar Association was constituted at the PBC general body meeting.
The PBC condemned alleged attempts to divide the legal fraternity by presenting unelected people to drive a wedge by developing an impression of dissension among the lawyers and footing the hotel bills and other expenses for holding meetings and conferences to raise voice in favour of the government. Such elements should come and try to convince the elected body by advancing their point of view as the bars were open to rationale discussions, he said.
He clarified that Wednesday’s meeting of the PBC was attended by the presidents of all the high court bar associations of the country despite the fact that they all had different political affiliations.
The vice chairman further explained that the PBC also approved the countrywide protest decision taken by the joint meeting of the representatives of bar councils held on June 8 and 9. He said the lawyers across the country would wear black armbands and would not appear in courts on June 14 to record their protest against the government for filing of the references. He hastened to add that the lawyers would remain peaceful and not resort to any violence as they believed in the rule of law.
He said the PBC took serious notice of some unsuccessful attempts of the incumbent government to divide the legal fraternity and expressed its resolve that the legal fraternity was united on this issue of vital importance.
Referring to the press statement issued by the former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry to lead the movement against the filing of the references, the PBC vice chairman said the elected bodies were duly functional and alive to the issue and had the fullest capacity to deal with the prevailing situation.
The PBC nominated its senior member Akhtar Hussain as member of the Judicial Commission (JC) that appoints judges to represent the council.
PBC executive committee chairman Hafiz Mohammad Idris Sheikh said all provincial bar councils and associations, too, would adopt decisions following the PBC decisions.
PBC member Raheel Kamran Sheikh was of the opinion that the process of the judicial accountability must be made more open, transparent and across the board to inspire public confidence and ensure independence of the judiciary. Therefore, he said, the demands made by the apex bar against “selective accountability” must be fulfilled to make the process trustworthy.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019