The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to IHC Bar Association (IHCBA) Secretary Muhammad Umair Baloch for "professional misconduct and contempt".
The high court also suspended Baloch's licence "to practice before [IHC]" until the next hearing, which will be held on December 19.
Baloch was reported to have been forcing lawyers not to appear before judges as the high court's bar association was observing a strike against alleged offences against the legal fraternity in Lahore a day earlier.
On Wednesday, lawyers had staged a violent protest at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) apparently on a mission to avenge a group of lawyers, who had been beaten up at the PIC a few weeks ago, soon after some video clips went viral on social media showing some doctors making fun of the lawyers while recalling the incident.
The outraged attackers, mostly young faces dressed in black suits and sporting neckties, spared no one present on hospital premises, where several serious cardiac patients are under treatment at any given time. The situation worsened when a mob stormed into the emergency department, seemingly in search of some doctors. In view of the approaching danger, the doctors fled the scene.
As the condition of some critical patients deteriorated in the absence of doctors, three PIC patients, including a girl and an elderly woman, passed away.
The court, in its notice today, noted that Baloch was "forcing the learned advocates to leave the court".
"He continued doing so when the court proceedings commenced. He was asked to refrain from disturbing the proceedings and undermining the decorum of the court," the notice read.
"In response, he came to the rostrum and in a tone unbecoming of an enrolled advocate, he stated that instead of stopping him, the judges should encourage the strike."
The court's notice further said that other IHC judges had also reported that Baloch "interfered with court proceedings".
"The aforementioned acts also amounted to depriving the litigants from the right of access to justice."
Baloch, while talking to a reporter, said that IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had told him not to observe a strike in the high court, to which the advocate responded: "When you (the judge) observed strikes and we used to be your followers, it was acceptable. Now it is not?"
He insisted that the lawyers were holding a "peaceful protest" but were "attacked" by the doctors. He went on to say that the lawyers' reaction was in "self-defence".
He also criticised the media for "one-sided" coverage and warned that he will "impose restrictions" over journalists' entry in the IHC.
"As a general secretary, I am warning the media that if they continue with their one-sided coverage, I will bar you from the Islamabad High Court," he said.
Lawyers bodies announce countrywide strike
Lawyers bodies on Thursday evening announced that they will observe a countrywide strike on Friday (tomorrow) against the "partial and biased conduct of local police and the administration of Lahore" against lawyers.
A Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) press release said that a joint action committee constituted to resolve the lawyers-doctors dispute — comprising representatives of the LHCBA, Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Supreme Court Bar Association and Lahore Bar Association — had unanimously demanded that the arrested lawyers be immediately released.
But contrary to this, lawyers were "muffled" while being presented before the antiterrorism court and have been kept under detention in an "extremely humiliating manner", the statement said.
It said the move by the government, judiciary and police had caused "great pain" to the lawyers' community and to record their protest, lawyers across the country will observe a full-day strike on Friday and no lawyer will appear in courts.
The LHCBA office-bearers also "strongly condemned" the move by IHC Chief Justice Minallah to suspend the licence of, and issue a contempt notice to, the IHCBA secretary. They said it was "highly inappropriate" to issue Baloch such a notice because as the secretary, it was his duty to get the call for the strike implemented.
The notice "should be withdrawn immediately and we should not be forced to take any extreme step", the press release added.
A Pakistan Bar Council statement while conceding that "some young lawyers demonstrated irresponsible conduct" at the PIC claimed that the local administration and police had arrested a large number of lawyers "even those who were not present there" and FIRs were lodged against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act, "which is highly condemnable". It also criticised the government and statements issued by its functionaries which it said were "singling out and targeting only the lawyers".
The PBC announced that lawyers will hold condemnation meetings in their respective Bar rooms tomorrow.
With additional reporting by Rana Bilal and Haseeb Bhatti.