LAHORE - The Lahore High Court yesterday rejected the lawyers’ demand for the creation of additional benches in Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Okara and DG Khan.

In a press statement after a three-day moot that was held in-camera, the LHC Full Court, which comprised 47 judges, held that the demand of new additional benches cannot be accepted.

The lawyers of the above five divisions had been demanding separate benches in their respective divisions for years to avoid from the problems of long travelling and the sufferings cause to them and their litigants to seek justice.

While the LHCBA seconded the decision, the lawyer bodies from the five divisions, three of which pledged to challenge the decision, rejected the decision as being ‘regretful’. Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of the LHC headed the full court.

“It is very regretful that no reason has been given in declining their demand as our request for bench in Faisalabad division was a genuine demand,” Muhammad Javed Awan, Member Punjab Bar Council, told The Nation.

He stated that they would challenge the decision of full court before the SC. He further said they were on strike that will continue till July 23.

“There are four districts in Faisalabad division and it was our reasonable demand because there is huge distance between their division and LHC principal seat,” he added.

Jam Muhammad Younis, member of Punjab Bar Council from DG Khan, said that the lawyers were demanding separate bench for last many years. He announced that the lawyers would hold their meeting on Wednesday to decide their further strategy about the decision of the full court. “There should be a separate bench as the population has increased so much,” he stressed.

From Gujranwala division, PBC member Chaudhary Rafiq Jathol said they strongly reject the decision of the full court and would challenge it before the SC. “There are six districts and 12 tehsils in Gujranwala division - which is a big city and their demand for separate bench was a right demand but awfully it has been rejected,” he added.

Rafiq Ahmad Niazi Advocate, from Sargodha division, said that he belonged to Bhakhar Bar Association and it had unanimously decided to include the district with Multan bench as it was near to them. However, when asked about the Full Court decision, he denied to further comment.

Muhammad Iqbal Khan Advocate, from Sahiwal, said that the lawyers of his division have also rejected the decision of the full court saying that they would approach the SC. “Our president Advocate Masood Ahmad Talaa has written a letter to the LHC Chief Justice today and I have personally dispatched that letter to him,” said Khan. He added that the people of the whole division would have been comfortable if the authorities concerned had accepted their demand.

LHCBA president Rana Zia Abdul Rehman welcomed the decision of the full court. He said it is a big decision and the whole legal community should follow it. “It is unanimous decision of full court and should be accepted and followed,” he urged.

“I represent lawyers but I say that it is decision of 47 judges and it should be implemented,” he further said.

The Lahore Bar Association did not show any concerns whether it was in the favour or against the creation of new benches.

In 1981, former military dictator Gen Zia had created the three permanent benches of the LHC to facilitate the citizens to have easy access to the justice. However, senior lawyers believe that the motive of the dictator’s move was to break the lawyers’ unity in Lahore city that always opposed martial law activities at that time.