ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has chided lawyers who act as advocates on record (AoRs) for cases brought to the highest court in the land, saying that while such matters ought to be tended with the utmost responsibility and seriousness; this was found lacking in the conduct of certain counsel in specific cases.

“The concept of enrolling AoRs at the Supreme Court is to ensure that cases filed in the Supreme Court are handled with meticulous care and responsibility and to ensure certainty of representation before the court,” observed Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

Justice Shah was a member of a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, which had taken up an application filed by Azmat Towellers (Pvt) Ltd Multan for the restoration of a petition that was dismissed on Oct 6, 2021 over non-prosecution of the case.

According to Order 1, Rule 2 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, the AoR is an advocate who is entitled to act in the Supreme Court by pleading for a party, including an appellant, respondent, plaintiff, defendant, etc.

The rules suggest that a senior advocate or AoR is entitled to appear and plead before the Supreme Court on signing his respective roll, and no advocate can appear or plead in any matter unless he is instructed by the AoR. In addition, every AoR must file in the court registry a power of attorney in the prescribed form.

In the matter at hand, the court recalled how no one had appeared on behalf of the petitioner on the date when the case was dismissed, adding that it was evident that the AoR had fallen short of the responsibility expected of him under the Supreme Court Rules 1980.

While adjudicating the restoration petition, Justice Shah noted that the AoR had submitted that while the petitioner’s counsel was present in the court on Oct 6, 2021, he had stepped out to the washroom and, by the time he returned, the case had been dismissed for non-prosecution.

This explanation was not backed up by the facts, the order noted.

“The learned counsel for the petitioner is not present and the learned AoR has made the... submission. We have examined the record of the case and have noticed that the learned counsel for the petitioner has not sworn an affidavit to certify [these] facts. Additionally, the record of the court associate for [Oct 6, 2021] does not reflect that the learned counsel or any representative of petitioner was present in court that day.

“No request was made by the counsel for restoring the case after he returned to the courtroom that day and no such ground was pleaded through the application,” the order further noted.

This is the second time that Justice Shah has taken issue with the role of the AoRs in recent months.

On Oct 10, 2021, when a two-judge bench took up an appeal moved by the Commissioner Inland Revenue-Multan, no one appeared on behalf of the petitioner when the case was called. There was, however, a written request for adjournment submitted by the AoR, who had to be sent for.

At that point, Justice Shah had wondered whether the institution of AoR had outlived its utility and was more of a disservice to litigants and the court.

In his latest order, Justice Shah observed that the court had — in the Falahuddin case — defined AoR as an advocate who was to act and plead for a party in the Supreme Court, adding that the definition of party also included an AoR when such a party was represented by the AoR.

Under the Supreme Court Rules 1980, the principal responsibility to act, appear and plead on behalf of the party was that of the AoR.

In the end, the Supreme Court dismissed the application, observing that it was without any merit.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022

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