ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Justice Babar Sattar on Thursday issued notices to the president and secretary of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) for allegedly restraining the lawyers and litigants from entering the court premises during a strike called by the Pakistan Bar Council.

The judge also decided to examine the authority of regulatory bodies of the lawyers regarding the issuance of the strike calls and threats of disciplinary action to lawyers over non-compliance.

The court sought a report along with CCTV footage dated May 9 from the IHC registrar in which the elected representatives of the IHCBA were seen stopping their fellow lawyers.

Senior lawyer Naeem Bukhari through an application diverted the attention of Justice Sattar that IHCBA President Riasat Ali Azad and other office bearers of the bar association stopped his lawyer from appearing before the court.

Justice Sattar issues notice to IHCBA president, secretary for ‘restraining’ lawyers from entering courts; seeks CCTV footage

The judge had dismissed the petition of Mr Bukhari regarding a dispute with the government related to the ‘Gun and Country Club’ over the non-appearance of his counsel. Mr Bukhari filed an application seeking the restoration of the petition, while also accusing Riasat Azad of “physically restraining” his lawyer from entering the court premises during the strike on May 9.

The strike call was issued to express solidarity with the legal fraternity after the Punjab police used force to disperse lawyers who were protesting in Lahore against the LHC chief justice’s decision to move courts.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) had declared Wednesday as a black day and issued a full-day nationwide strike call for all courts, including the Supreme Court, high courts, and the subordinate judiciary.

Justice Sattar while disposing of the application issued notices to the president and secretary of the IHCBA. He also issued notice to the Pakistan Bar Council and sought a response by June 10.

The court sought a report from the IHC registrar by the next hearing on the said date on “whether anyone was prevented from appearing before the court on May 09, 2024, due to a call for strike issued by the PBC and the Islamabad Bar Council (IBC).

Justice Sattar issued the direction to the registrar to make “arrangements to play the relevant CCTV recordings from the relevant date and the relevant time, reflecting how the premises of the court were being manned, to satisfy the court that the applicants’ counsel and other litigants and/or their lawyers were not being prevented from appearing before the court”.

He also questioned the authority of the PBC and the IBC and asked them to explain “under what authority can lawyers prevent fellow-lawyers and/or litigants from accessing justice, to be dispensed by the courts, and enforce the same through physical obstruction of passaging to courts”.

The court also issued notice to the attorney general and advocate general Islamabad and sought their assistance on the authority of the bar councils “to issue strike calls and threaten disciplinary action against a lawyer who refuses to adhere to such call, given that the matter requires interpretation of the rights of citizens to access justice guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The court noted that since the applicant Naeem Bukhari filed an affidavit, stating that his counsel was forcibly stopped by the IHCBA’s elected representatives, and sought a counter-affidavit from the IHCBA president and the secretary.

It may be noted that Mr Bukhari in his application claimed that “numerous senior counsels along with the undersigned were stopped at the main entrance and despite their best efforts were not allowed to proceed the courtrooms on the assurance by the IHCBA president that the judges of the IHC had been informed in advance, who had in turn assured that no adverse order would be passed on the said day.”

He stated that the counsel was “forced” not to tender an appearance and the IHCBA president’s “categorical assurance” that no adverse action would be passed for non-appearance delayed the counsel from reaching the courtroom, where the reader informed that the petition had already been dismissed.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2024

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