Shahzad Ahmad

Lahore - Lahore High Court Chief Justice Anwaarul Haq has directed the LHC’s Administration Committee to amend the relevant High Court rules and orders for the establishment of registry counters at divisional headquarters across Punjab.

Chief Justice Anwaarul Haq sent an application filed by the Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) for the establishment of registry counters to the committee for the purpose. The application was submitted to Chief Justice Muhammad Anwaarul Haq, Senior Puisne Judge Justice Sardar Muhammad Shamim Khan and Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh by the vice chairman of the Punjab Bar Council for the establishment of registry counters at divisional headquarters. The PBC president submitted the application on behalf of behalf of all the five presidents of district bar associations of Dera Ghazi Khan, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Sahiwal.

A statement issued by LHC Registrar Shakil Ahmad says, “I am to inform you that in view of your joint written application dated 12-12-2018 presented before the Hon’ble Chief Justice and two Senior Most Hon’ble Judges of this Court for establishment of registry counters at divisional head-quarters, the Hon’ble Authority has been pleased to direct the undersigned to place the matter within a week before the Honlele Administration Committee for consideration as the matter requires necessary amendment in the relevant High Court Rules and Orders,”  When contacted, Hassan Iqbal Warraich, the Lahore High Court Bar Association secretary and convener of a committee which met with the LHC chief justice and the two senior most judges yesterday, termed it a positive development towards the establishment of benches at divisional level.

He said that the purpose of the establishment of registry counters was that the filing of cases in the Lahore High Court would be facilitated at the divisional headquarters but the cases would be heard in Lahore after amendment of relevant LHC rules and orders. He termed it a positive step towards the establishment of benches in those regions. He said that after decision, strike had been called off across the Punjab and the courts would be unlocked today.

To a question, the clarified that the lawyers community had not withdrawn even an inch from the demand of establishment of benches at divisional headquarters rather was only awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in the case.

He said that the decision was made as the Supreme Court of Pakistan had taken up the matter. He added that the committee had proposed that till the final decision of the apex court on the issue, the filing of cases be allowed at the divisional headquarters to facilitate the litigants and the proposal was accepted by the LHC chief justice. He maintained that the establishment of benches would now be decided by the Supreme Court.  He referred to a petition filed by PbBC’s Executive Committee Member Raheel Kamran Sheikh on December 5, 2018 in the Supreme Court seeking its indulgence for increasing the number of LHC benches in different divisions. It seeks directions of the top court for establishment of LHC’s new benches in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sargodha and Sahiwal. It also challenges the decision of Full Court Meeting of LHC held on 15 to 17 July 2016, wherein demand of establishment of more benches was rejected. The protesters say for the last more than one decade, there has been a persistent demand made by the district bar associations of Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sargodha and Sahiwal for the establishment of new benches of the High Court.

Likewise, PbBC’s Executive Committee chairperson Bushra Qamar, appreciated the LHC chief justice’s decision and said it should be taken positively. She hoped that the demand of benches would also be discussed in the Administration Committee.

The LHC office-bearers also said that the LHC Bar was fully supporting the demand for the formation of new benches. However, they added, “We are not supporting the way the demand was being conveyed by the lawyers.”

They had also opposed the lockdown of courts and boycott of legal proceedings which were hitting not only the litigants but also the lawyers hard.

The LHC Bar and Punjab Bar Council office-holders were of the view that neither the LHC nor the bars were authorized to establish new benches. Rather the government could fulfill the demand, they added. They said the demand for new benches is definitely a matter of public importance involving enforcement of fundamental rights of the citizens, Article 19A of the Constitution itself guarantees the right to information in all such matters.

Last Monday, the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) committee was constituted to bring the lawyers’ groups on the same page on the issue of new benches which cause province-wide protests and lockdown of courts especially in Sargodha, Gujranwala and Faislabad. It had unanimously decided to hold a meeting with Chief Justice Anwarul Haq on the issue.

With the new development, the lawyers’ strike has been called off across Punjab province and the court proceedings would continue in all the courts today.