Challenges & new steps for justice
The events of the judiciary and the legal fraternity reveal that relation between bench and bar remained on the edge during the year 2017.
For the first time it was witnessed that judges of the Lahore High Court were withdrawn from a bench of the high court in Multan and a bar leader was summoned over ‘charges of attacking a constitutional court’.
Credit goes to Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar who amicably controlled the situation. However, it makes it clear that strong relation is much needed between bench and bar for dispensation of justice and ‘supremacy of law’. On July 24, Multan LHCBA President Sher Zaman along with other lawyers misbehaved with Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, who was holding proceedings on a case related to a mosque falling on the route of a government project in Vehari Chowk.
After the incident, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had withdrawn judges from the Lahore High Court’s Multan Bench. The Lahore High Court Principal Seat and its Bench at Bahawalpur were made available for dispensation of justice to the masses.
A five-member bench was constituted and headed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah to start proceedings against the delinquent advocates under the law of contempt and High Court Rules and Orders for suspension and/or removal of the said advocates from the practice of the High Court. Justice Muhammad Anwaarul Haq, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza were the other members of bench.
The LHC witnessed ugly scenes as a group of mostly young lawyers stormed the courtroom of Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, chanted slogans against the top judge of Punjab making situation hostile for judges of a five-member larger bench to come to the court to hold contempt proceedings against the high court bar’s Multan-seat president and other.
The bench was set to resume hearing; however, dozens of lawyers were already gathered outside the courtroom No.1 intending to show their strength and anger to the judges for summoning their colleagues through warrants.
Police personnel deployed outside the chief justice’s courtroom did not offer any resistance to the aggressive lawyers to, what they said, avoid any clash.
The bench headed by the chief justice had withdrawn the warrants after Lahore High Court Bar Association President Ch Zulfiqar Ali and other senior members from the Bar gave an undertaking regarding appearance of the LHCBA-Multan President Sher Zaman Qureshi and others. However, the lawyers facing the contempt charges did not appear before the court. The bar leaders said that they had been trying to calm the situation and anger of the Multan’s lawyers. He sought two-week time to ensure compliance of the court’s order. When the bench reminded him of his undertaking to make the contemnors appear, he said general house of the LHCBA-Multan passed a resolution against the court’s order and resolved that its president would not appear before the bench. Chief Justice Shah observed that the court had shown grace and withdrawn the non-bailable warrants against the contemnors on the repeated requests of the Bar’s leaders.
The chief justice observed with regret that the whole matter had been given a political colour by the lawyers to protect only one individual. “No person in Pakistan can refuse to appear before this court, if summoned. We are showing maximum restraint despite having all powers to make anybody appear before this court,” the CJ observed. However, the bench gave last chance to the contemnors to appear before it on Aug 11 with a warning of issuing non-bailable warrants.
Later, the SC, however, sought a detailed report from the registrar of the Lahore High Court on the events of lawyers’ hooliganism that took place at Multan and Principle seat of the high court and expected that a larger bench seized with contempt proceedings against a lawyers’ leader from Multan would wait for final decision of the apex court on the matter.
A larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took up an appeal filed by Lahore High Court Bar Association-Multan chapter President Sher Zaman Qureshi against his non-bailable arrest warrants issued by the LHC in the contempt matter. Supreme Court Bar Association President Rasheed A Rizvi and other senior lawyers appeared on behalf of Mr Qureshi. Present in the court, Mr Qureshi also filed a written apology at the start of the hearing. Mr Rizvi said the lawyers had a great respect for judiciary, however, Mr Qureshi did not want to appear before a larger bench of the LHC due to unavoidable circumstances.
Chief Justice Nisar observed whether the dignity of the institution of judiciary was not compromised by defying the court orders. Everyone was appearing before courts then why not an advocate could appear before the high court, the chief justice further asked the senior lawyers.
CJ said the dispute could have been settled at initial stage if Mr Qureshi would appear before the court and present his point of view. Advocate Rizvi argued that Multan bar president was not involved in the alleged misbehaviour with a judge and vandalism. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa observed if lawyers wanted to protect the justice system they should better respect orders of the courts. However, in another similar matter of Multan Judicial complex for which the Multan lawyers had been on strike in Multan, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar snubbed the registrar of the Lahore High Court for lack of facilities there. The CJP directed the registrar to move the Sessions Court back to old place within ten days.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench took suo motu proceedings at the SC Lahore registry. Reprimanding LHC Registrar Syed Khursheed Anwar Rizvi, the CJP remarked “You also brought me an incorrect report last night,”. The CJP asked him the reason behind the swift shifting of the sessions courts to new complex.
“Why the courts were shifted to a faraway place similar to fields having no basic facility,” CJP Nisar observed. He also observed that “it took 20 minutes even to my convoy to reach the complex,”.
The bench regretted that the sessions judge of Multan also misled the court on the issue but held LHC registrar Rizvi solely responsible for the whole blunder and observed.
The lawyers ended up their protest after the SC’s order.
Besides the challenging relations between the bench and the bar, many good and new things also took place during the year which would shape the judicial system in the coming days. It all was about the efforts of Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah. He is the judge who opened a first court in Punjab to deal with gender based violence cases. The court has been functioning at Lahore Judicial Complex with an additional district & sessions judge as its presiding judge.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Chief Justice Shah said the setting up a special court to deal the gender base violence cases had become critical for the protection of women. He regretted that Supreme Court had in 2013 clearly issued direction for the establishment of such courts but the matter was delayed. He admitted that the traditional courts failed to dispense justice among women in the society. He said the women had not been provided a friendly environment and sense of protection in the courts.
Now, he said, victims (women) of violence would be able to defend their cases in a protected environment and could record statements in a separate room on video-link. He said, “We have not changed any system but adopted modern mechanism.”
Chief Justice Shah also opened a special court to deal with the cases of children-the first ever court of its kind in Pakistan. The CJ revealed that soon a special court for the senior citizens would also be established in Lahore as well.
Alternative Dispute Resolution System and the new IT system at the Lahore High Court are also remarkable projects established by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah first time in the judicial history to deal with the increasing burden of litigation and to end hundreds and thousands of pending cases before the Lahore High Court and the lower judiciary.