LAHORE: The junior judicial officers serving in the provincial metropolis are feeling dejected and demoralised over the ‘lackluster’ approach of the authorities concerned to deal with the incidents of misbehavior and rowdiness they face at the hands of the lawyers while performing their duty.
Given seriousness of the issue, LHC Registrar Mushtaq Ahmad Ojla has recently asked all district & sessions judge in Punjab to furnish data of such incidents occurring during the last two years, along with their outcome.
The content of some of the complaints recently submitted by the judges to the high-ups shows that some of the lawyers, both men and women, have the audacity to force any district judge suspend the court in the middle of a hearing and attend them first in his chamber and hurling sexist remarks and abuses at women judges in courtrooms.
LHC registrar seeks data of such incidents
The judicial officers claim that their bosses — district & sessions judges or senior civil judges, usually discourage them when when someones tries to report such incidents in writing, and rather advise them to reconcile with the offenders, especially in the episodes involving the sitting office-bearers of the bar.
A judge, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that every other day his fellow judges, including women officers, report incidents of lawyers’ misconduct in a WhatsApp group they established to connect with each other.
He claimed that mostly the complaining judge were advised by their bosses against narrating the abusive conduct of a lawyer verbatim in their complaints, only to reduce the gravity of the incident.
He admitted that the judicial officers, in most of the cases, preferred “settlement” with the offending lawyers as such matters usually end up in their transfer and they did not want to lose posting in the provincial capital. He said most of the sessions judges also avoid any confrontation with the bar to prolong their posting in Lahore district.
“A lawyer appeared in my court from a certain law chamber and started shouting at me that why I dismissed his exparte case for maintenance? I asked him to file an appeal upon which he started misbehaving in the open court [the judge quoted what the lawyer had allegedly said, but the sentences are withheld by the newspaper]. I am sorry for repeating the obscene content, but it is necessary to know the level of filth we are facing,” a woman judge writes in her complaint.
A civil judge recently went on a long leave apparently in protest against lack of action by the authorities concerned on his complaint against a Lahore Bar Association office-bearer and others carrying allegations of “physical torture, abusive language, manhandling, threats to life and interference in judicial work”.
Narrating the incident in writing to the Lahore High Court, the judge says his court’s orderly, on the day of occurrence, repeatedly informed him in the middle of a hearing that the LBA’s office-bearer and some other lawyers were calling him in his chamber adjacent to the courtroom.
A lawyer also repeatedly came to the court reader and conveyed him that he (the judge) was being summoned by the bar’s office-bearer in the chamber, the judge adds.
As the situation got serious, the judge says, he along with his orderly went to the chamber to find six lawyers led by the bar secretary. He alleges that the bar’s leader forced him to pass a favourable order in a case with threat of “dire consequences”.
The judge claims when he refused to fulfill the illegal demand of the lawyers they not only orally abused him, but also roughed him up. On hearing the noise some other lawyers also came inside the chamber and he left the place, says the complaint.
He also mentioned verbatim the abuses allegedly hurled by the bar official, later in a reconciliatory meeting in the room of a senior civil judge in the presence of other bar leaders.
The bar claims that the dispute between the judge and the bar official stood resolved “amicably”, however, the complaint filed by the former suggests there was no compromise.
The judge also recounts another incident wherein a lawyer locked his courtroom for not getting a favourable decision.
A complaint filed by a woman civil judge accuses a woman lawyer of misbehaving in the court and hurling threats at the judge for not deciding an application in her favour.
“A lawyer namely (name withheld) harassed and pressurised me to issue an order without hearing the other counsel…threatening to kick me out of the courtroom,” another female judge shares her experience.
In the latest episode on last Saturday, a couple of lawyers physically assaulted a civil judge in the courtroom.
An official said a senior judge advised the victim civil judge against making public the details of the incident and assured him of action against the perpetrators within two days. However, no action has so far been taken despite a lapse of a week.
However, on the complaints of a civil judge and a woman family judge, the bar cabinet suspended the offender lawyers’ memberships and referred the matter to the Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) for further action.
Talking to Dawn, LBA President G.A Khan Tariq claimed to have shown zero tolerance against such incidents. He said the number of the incidents involving lawyers’ misconduct in the courts had been very low during his tenure as compared to the past.
He said the misconduct or misbehaviour on part of the lawyers was not acceptable in any case. However, he argued that the judges too should not act like “activists or do politics”.
Asked about any progress in proceedings against the suspended lawyers, he said the PbBC was not practically functional for quite some time as its five-year term stood expired and fresh election was going to be held on Nov 28.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020