Lawyers urge SJC to reject references against judges

Updated July 14, 2019

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Lawyers at the convention held on the Peshawar High Court premises on Saturday.
Lawyers at the convention held on the Peshawar High Court premises on Saturday.

PESHAWAR: As lawyers boycotted court proceedings in different parts of the country, an All Pakistan Lawyers’ Convention on Saturday called upon the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) to reject the references against two judges of superior courts saying the cases were aimed at curtailing the independence of the judiciary.

The convention, held on the premises of the Peshawar High Court (w), unanimously passed several resolutions urging the federal government to withdraw the references against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice K.K. Agha of the Sindh High Court and calling upon the SJC to reject the references if the government was not willing to withdraw them.

The convention warned that the lawyers would launch countrywide agitation if the SJC acted against the two judges.

It demanded that the SJC make public judgements of all the references it had so far decided against judges and also hear scores of other references pending before it for the last many years.

The convention condemned placing restrictions on the media by the government and demanded that freedom of media should be respected and not curtailed.

The chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC)’s executive committee, Hafiz Mohammad Idress, said that as per their information in the July 12 proceedings the SJC had issued show- cause notices to the two judges, which meant that the council would now give decisions on the references.

PBC vice chairman Syed Amjid Shah announced that another convention of lawyers would be held in Quetta on Aug 8, which would also mark the anniversary of the killing of scores of lawyers in a terrorist attack in the city in 2016.

The convention was addressed by the lawyers’ top leadership, including former presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Hamid Khan, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Yaseen Azad and Qazi Mohammad Anwar, acting president of the SCBA Khan Afzal Khan, PHC Bar Association president Lateef Afridi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council vice chairman Saeed Khan, Punjab Bar Council vice chairman Chaudhry Shahnawaz Ismail, Islamabad Bar Council vice chairman Haroon Rasheed, Balochistan Bar Council vice chairman Rahib Khan Buledi, Sindh Bar Council executive committee member Amanullah Yousafzai and retired Justice Fakhrun Nisa.

The speakers said the references against the two judges, particularly Justice Isa, had been “engineered by the forces who do not want to see an independent judiciary” in the country.

They said the judgements authored by Justice Isa in the Faizabad sit-in case and the Balochistan lawyers’ killings had exposed the hidden forces which had been conspiring against democratic set-ups since the creation of Pakistan.

The lawyers’ leaders warned the SJC that if it succumbed to the pressure of hidden forces and decided the references, then all of the independent judges on the bench would be targeted one after the other.

Hamid Khan suggested that the lawyers should adopt a three-pronged strategy: Firstly, they should demand transparency in SJC proceedings, which should be open and not in-camera; secondly, they should file a petition under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution challenging the references on ground of being mala fide; and, thirdly, they should further build up pressure by holding such conventions in other cities.

Yaseen Azad claimed that as Justice Isa was likely to become chief justice of Pakistan in 2023, the year when next general elections would be held, the “elements known for engineering polls are worried and want to remove him from the scene”.

Through a resolution, the convention demanded that cases registered against advocates Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, who are also MNAs, be withdrawn and their production orders be issued so that they could represent their constituencies in the National Assembly.

The convention also demanded that 175 (A) of the Constitution, as originally provided in the Constitution (Eighteenth Amendment) Act, should be restored so that the say of all stakeholders in appointment of judges to the superior judiciary was given due weightage.

It said parameters of the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution should be clearly defined.

Meanwhile, lawyers observed strike throughout KP, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta on the call of the PBC in protest against the government move of filing of references against Justice Isa and Justice Agha.

In Karachi, legal proceedings were disturbed as lawyers did not turn up to plead their cases fixed for the day in the City Courts and Malir District Courts.

In Lahore also, lawyers observed strike as a majority of them did not plead their cases before the courts and spent the whole day sitting in bar rooms.

In Quetta, lawyers boycotted court proceedings and observed back day by hoisting a black flag on the building of the district courts.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2019