When I heard the news that a lawyer threw shoe at a judge for rejecting bail application, my first reaction was nothing as it is accepted as ‘business as usual’ in legal fraternity. We in legal fraternity have become indifferent to any highhandedness on part of the lawyers that thrashing of subordinate court staff and policemen is a norm. I have never seen any strict action on the part of Bar Councils when such incidents happen. The normal modus operandi is that no action is taken if it involves thrashing of a court staff or a policemen but if it involves a judge, the Bar Council with a great amount of reluctance suspends the licence of the lawyer who is responsible and then ‘persuades’ the judge of the subordinate court to settle the matter with the lawyer and then the suspension is recalled. I have never seen any lawyer’s licence being cancelled for such reasons.

I think that Bar Councils need to be strict with lawyers who are involved in such incidents. The sad part is that there are different groups in Bar Councils who contest elections and the last thing they want is to offend those very lawyers who form their vote bank. Whenever such an incident happens and representatives of Bar Councils are asked to explain the position their normal reaction is that the lawyer was provoked by the judge, court staff or the policemen. The lawyers are never at fault according to the Bar Councils.

To use the words of Imran Khan, such conduct on the part of Bar Councils is ‘Sharamnak’. The Bar Council also needs to come up with strict rules for elections as candidates spend millions of Rupees to participate in elections. Once elected, they will do anything necessary to get the relief from the courts, especially the subordinate courts, even if that means harassing or intimidating the judges. It is even worse when such things are done by the elected representatives of the Bar. I have seen this happening many times that a group of five or six lawyers will gang up on a judge and ask for relief without putting forward any arguments. The fault lies with the Bar Councils and the silent majority of lawyers who turn a blind eye towards such incidents. Such people from our community bring bad name to the entire community. Some action needs to be taken right now otherwise this profession will deteriorate further. This profession used to be one of the most respectable professions in the country and it is a shame that now banks and other financial institutions do not even extend any financial facilities to lawyers or give credit cards because of their conduct. And if nothing is done then things will only get worse. The Bar Councils play a vital role in the regulation of this profession and their importance was stressed upon fifty years ago by Justice Kayaniwhen he said that, “It is only a good bar which can save a politically insolvent country, for here there is no public opinion, there is no electorate with a firm voice.”

Last week it was shown in the news that Bar Council exams in Multan were conducted without any supervision whatsoever. The candidates were talking on cell phones and asking each other for answers. The quality of exam paper set by Bar Councils is already questionable and over and above if potential lawyers cannot clear them on their own, then it raises the question whether or not they should even be entitled to get the licence to practice. The Bar Council needs to intervene as the quality of lawyers is deteriorating. The quality of arguments presented before the High Courts are bad and before the subordinate courts is even worse. If the only argument put forward by the counsel is “MeharbaniKeroSaiyen”, then I wonder how the judge will grant him relief as they have to write something in their order. The major reason is mushroom growth of unregulated law colleges which operate inside houses. The Bar Council needs to ensure that only those law colleges are recognized who have a competent faculty and all the resources such as library and moot court rooms.  I have seen lawyers who never attended any classes in the three years of law school and just sat in final exams and cleared them by whatever means. These things need to be stopped and the only way to do is to regulate law colleges and raise the quality of bar exams.

The frequency of such incidents has increased after the lawyer’s movement and restoration of superior judiciary. The general perception among lawyers is that judges ‘owe’ something to them because their efforts were momentous in getting them restored. I think that lawyers need to get out of this phase now as judges do not owe anything to lawyers or anyone else. During contempt proceedings Imran Khan made the same argument that he did a lot for judiciary. The simple answer to both lawyers and Imran Khan is that judges do not owe anything to anyone. The movement was for restoration of judiciary and not to have them indebted to someone. We need to move on and get out of the lawyer’s movement phase as more than four years have passed by.

Another aspect is that the superior courts need to step in to help out subordinate judiciary. If superior judiciary remains indifferent to such incidents because they do not take place in the superior courts then that day is not far when such things will start happening in the superior courts as well. I believe that whenever such an incident happens again it should not just be a disciplinary matter for the Bar Council, rather criminal proceedings should also be initiated against the lawyer responsible. It might be taking it to another extreme but I do not have any hesitation in saying that such a person should be charged under the Terrorism Act as nothing terrorizes general public more than the fact that a judge is not safe in any society.  The lawyers need to realize that in case a judge is being unfair or being ‘provocative’, then the proper thing to do in such circumstances is to lodge a complaint against that judge instead of attacking the judge or his staff. The lawyers need to understand that in order to convince the judge, they have to raise the quality of their argument and not their hand or voice.

The writer is a Barrister-at-Law